A few years ago, someone asked me if I was in constant, chronic pain. I replied, “I am always aware of it.” I think my response was a bit confusing to the person who asked, and he did look puzzled. But it was a more accurate description of the place of chronic pain in my life.
Yes, I experience ongoing chronic pain, so I am always aware of it. But my state of mind and spirit is not one hemmed in by chronic pain. And for good reason. If all I thought of was my pain, it would take over my attitudes toward all else, too. To be “in” pain would mean that it was all-encompassing, all around and in me, to the exclusion of anything else.
But, even with the pain I have, which can be very severe, I recognize other qualities in my life and spirit, too, that help me balance the place that pain has. Carefulness is one of those qualities – being protective of the joints that hurt and doing what my docs suggest to help them heal, even a little. And another quality is gentleness. I find that the more I am gentle with pain, the more calm my spirit is, and the more balanced I feel.
I once saw a world-class tennis player beat up on herself – truly. She had her legs taped nearly shoe-top t0 thigh, and could not move as agily as she needed to keep up with her opponent. Finally, utterly frustrated, she took her tennis raquet and began to whack her legs one, then the other. Needless to say, she lost the match. And I have to think that whatever injury she’d tried to protect with the tape was worsened by her self-infliction of more injury.
But, when we dig deep and find that part of us that is gentle, we can turn from digging into our pain. And, when we turn to our gentle and loving God, we can bring even more soul-deep balm and therein find greater strength.
I was recently rebuffed by someone when I tried to be uplifting in conversation with someone who is very ill. The person who rebuffed me was adamant about a particularly negative ramification of illness and refused to entertain the notion that there could be anything positive coming from it at all.
Well, of course, with such refusal, there would not and probably never could be!
But as impossible as some situations are, if we have to live with them, I’ve always thought we do need to try to find another way to approach them so we’re not weighed down in the mire by negativity. Sometimes we can approach them through an open window – and obvious positive (such as the fact that, because I have no hair and have to wear wigs – the negative – I never do have a bad hair day – the positive). But sometimes, we have to go through a back door – because of illness/medication/other, nothing tastes good, we can look to other sensations to give us pleasure (temperature, texture, sense-memory).
What’s the point of this attitude-gymnastics? The point is that, the more we live in total negativity, the more negative our lives will be. Not a good approach, especially when all else is very dire in our lives.
Faith gives me hope, which in turn gives me a resilient ability to find something positive about negative situations. Those who have no faith might have a more difficult time of it, but it still makes logical sense that, if we do want to “get well” in any way – body, mind, spirit – we have to believe that “get well” is possible. Otherwise, we’ll spin our wheels, pounding on the front door with increasingly painful (proverbial) fists.
I apply my desire to find a positive in the negative to other things, too. Tis the season for ants to try to find their way into homes, and they seem to think they’ve found a “front door” in one of my kitchen cupboards. Not a fun thing, to be sure, and one that takes time to manage and monitor. But, I’ve found a positive even here! Yes, I’ve managed to better arrange my cupboard, refreshing it even as the ants come and go, with the change of season.
After reading about the new and very specific medical coding that is being put in place because of the new healthcare regs, several odd-sounding scenarios struck me as funny, and I couldn’t resist sharing my humor with my docs (and I couldn’t wait to see if this drill-down-deep coding system was for real). So, to my cardiologist, I said, “I will say I’m glad to report no encounters with squirrels.”
We laughed, and then my doc insisted typing in “squirrel” into the search bar of the coding app. Sure enough, besides “encounter with squirrel,” there was “subsequent encounter with squirrel”…and so on. Also, there was “bitten by squirrel,” etc. In all, I think there are 6-8 codes related to squirrels!
After the wondering (what is an encounter with a squirrel, as opposed to “bitten by squirrel?”), and sharing a good laugh, I turned to the more serious topic of how we communicate what ails us. True, it might seem outlandish to have to go into such detail with a coding system. However, there is a lot of good in fine-tuning our words so that our doctors know exactly how we are feeling. After all, if they don’t know, they cannot readour minds – and our overall healthcare might suffer.
I have long-recommended that we patients each develop our own “health thesaurus” so that we can specifically (or as nearly as possible) describe our symptoms and the conditions under which we feel them. I’ve also encouraged each of us to understand as much as we possibly can about our illnesses so that we can link what is happening with us with verbiage that will resonate with the healthcare professional trying to understand. So, in this regard, a more specific coding system might be helpful…to a point.
As our docs struggle to navigate the maze of those oh-so-detailed descriptions and find just the right code to fit our health and lives, we will probably have to be more than a little patient. But, too, we will no doubt find lots to chuckle over…even if it is that we have no encounters with squirrels to report!
The weather is still blistering hot here, and I feel it every time I go outside – and hours afterward. Even when the sun sets, the pavement is still warm, and there seems to be no relief from that sluggish sense of time suspended, energy zapped. Yet, of course, life moves on. Friends, errands, docs, and more need attention. Wouldn’t it be easier if we could handle our relationships and responsibilities only at times when we’re at our best? Put everything off to those “VERY good days?”
So, instead of fretting over “Oh, I’d be so much more coherent if I had a bit more sleep” or “If only my knees didn’t ache so much, I could get through this round of errands much faster,” I’ve been learning to accept and “just be.” Yup, no excuses or regrets. Just “Here I am, I’m doing my best.”
And that, I think, is the key. We might never be “at our best,” devoid of symptoms or other complications. But our intent to do our best can help put those symptoms and the task, person, or problem at hand in good perspective.
Yes, we might not always be our best. In fact, sometimes, we might look frazzled or worse and feel just as non-optimal inside. But we can always try to do ou best, and therein make the difference.