Good Days…Bad Days With Maureen Pratt

Good Days…Bad Days With Maureen Pratt

Reminder: No Two Snowflakes Are Alike!

posted by mpratt
Image courtesy of jannoon028/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jannoon028/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This was one of the first things I heard when I was diagnosed with lupus.

“Lupies are like snowflakes – no two are alike.”

It’s turned out to be a truly wise statement, in myriad ways. And it’s good to revisit it once in awhile, because sometimes we compare ourselves and our life with illness to others with similar challenges.  And, when we do, we might be inclined to be jealous or proud or sad or overly frustrated.

So, a gentle and friendly reminder: No two snowflakes are alike!

Now, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have anything in common. I learn volumes from my fellow chronic illness sufferers. The people in my lupus support group helped me tremendously, especially in the coping category. But, I remember, too, that our experiences are different simply because we are different people – and the disease (lupus) behaves differently in each one of us.

The reminder of not being exactly like every other [fill in the blank] patient is also helpful when we try to find and learn more about our condition. All the manifestations of a particular disease might not be present in everyone who has it, and all of the side effect of medications used to treat it may not manifest themselves in everyone, either.  Time and again, I go back to my main doctor for “the scoop” on how information relates directly to me. I urge each patient to do this, too, and to not be scared by the “horror stories” we hear from others’ experiences.

God knows us each by name and loves us each as His beloved child. He’s an “equal opportunity” parent, in that He loves each of us equally – but has created in each of us people with individual lives, gifts, and talents. Realizing that we are unique is the first step toward recognizing those gifts and talents and finding ways to put them to use. And that uniqueness extends to our physical lives and the illness and pain we might have.

Snowflakes might originate from someplace cold, and when they’re clumped together in piles and banks, they might be inconvenient. But if you look closely, they are absolutely amazing and beautiful.

Next time you find yourself down or displeased by how you look or how you feel, think of the snowflake and its uniqueness and beauty. That’s you, too!
Blessings for the day,

Maureen

Be gentle – to yourself

posted by mpratt

Maureen Pratt Author PicA friend and I were going to get together, but she ended up in bed with the flu.  She was “really, really sorry” that our plans couldn’t work out. But, “Be gentle to yourself,” I told her. All else can wait until you’re feeling much, much better.

When we have plans and they’re derailed by illness – our illness, our first inclination might be to feel guilty. Remorseful. Embarrassed that we are, once again, victim of our frail bodies. But when we’re especially hurting is actually the best time to exercise another kind of care, another approach to our condition.

Gentleness is powerful. It soothes, calms, and helps stress melt away. Gentleness is a way to respect the recuperation we need and, before we’re feeling better, it’s a great way to

How do we show gentleness? First, by not being embarrassed or guilty about the fact that we’re ill. Illness “just is.”

Second, we speak gently, move about gently, and arrange our day so that we lessen any significant burden of activity (work, social responsibilities, etc.). It’s all right. There will be a day very soon when we’re feeling better and stronger and up to tackling what we temporarily set aside.

Gentleness is a virtue also expressed in prayer. Instead of forceful supplication, sit back, focus on one element of your relationship with God, and let thoughts flow from the Spirit to your soul.

A fiery, spice meal when you’re ill probably doesn’t do as much good as the proverbial chicken soup. So, too, does gentleness belong at the times when we’re ailing.  Yes, life will “spice up” soon enough!

Blessings for the day,

Maureen

Having a bad day? Cue the music

posted by mpratt

Maureen Pratt Author PicWhat is the soundtrack of your life? What songs lift you up? Make you want to move? Make you laugh? Make you cry? What songs do you take with you when you’re going to the doctor’s office? Or, having surgery? Or, waiting for test results?

What songs bring out the best in you?

What songs touch you so deeply that you feel your spirit soar and your life brighten, in spite of your pain?

Over many years, I’ve followed scientific studies that are forming a body of research indicating that music can be a very powerful part of healing, that is, lifting mood and making us more resilient in the face of terrible health challenges. Seems that science is catching up with what many of us already know: Music helps!

But, often, we limit our “intake” of music, or forget to make use of it altogether. It might be on our MP3 players, but not in our minds. It might reside in a fine collection of CDs, but not in our hearts. Or, we might put ourselves at the mercy of whatever’s on the radio when we get in our cars. Perhaps you think you can’t sing a note (or those you sing are fit only to make dogs howl), so you’re afraid to burst into song. Or, perhaps you’ve been brought so low by pain and illness that your sense of melody and meter has been suppressed.

Music, however, is there!

I’ve found that, when I’m having a really bad day, I call upon one or more Gospel songs to lift me up. “Through It All,” by Andrae Crouch, is one of my favorites. “Thank You, Lord,” also by Crouch, is another. The traditional hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” makes me mindful of God’s power throughout the world and within everything therein. And, “Amazing Grace?” What a balm!

When I want to be motivated, I sometimes turn to good ol’ rock and roll. Percussion moves!

And when I want to calm frayed nerves or just mentally go to another, more soothing place, Hawaiian music, jazz, or Irish ballads can take me there.

Blessedly, I’ve kept these and other songs and styles of music in my heart so that, no matter where I am or what’s going on around me, the music is there. We don’t need MP3 players and radios when the songs are so close to us we can push the play button of our hearts.

The more we are mindful of our personal playlist, the more we can take advantage of music as part of our health regimen, part of what can help us live through the tough times and be more praiseful in the good.

Blessings for the day,

Maureen

Caring and not caring about what others think

posted by mpratt

Maureen Pratt Author PicIllness can be very ugly. Yes, it can be that horrible blot on our lives, and certainly change our appearance in undesirable ways.  And one of the hardest things to handle it is when we’re out in public – or planning to be out in public – and we know that we look “different” or move differently or require certain accommodations because of our illness or physical constraint.

Elsewhere on Beliefnet soon will be a Gallery about finding and making use of your personal style, no matter what physical challenges you’re living with (I’ll Tweet/FB/Google the link soon as I have it). Here, though, I want to focus in on one aspect of life with illness: Caring and not caring about what others think of us.

Of course, we want to have friends, be liked, move about in social circles and benefit from and be a benefit to the groups we “adopt.” We want to be polite, respectful of others, and even pitch in with helpful efforts of our own. But we’ve also probably experienced stares, rebuffs, that curtain going down over someone’s eyes when we mention even a little of what we’re living with. And, when our condition causes inconvenience to others, well, we’ve probably experienced outward hostility, too.

Think of those moments when fingers are crippled and painful from arthritis and the simple act of counting out change at the cash register suddenly becomes a herculean task – and there’s a long line of shoppers behind us, impatient and, some, perhaps unforgiving. I remember one incident vividly in the parking lot of a store around holiday time. I was waiting for a handicap space and someone was waiting behind me. Apparently, it took too long for the driver of that car, and all of a sudden, I heard a loud “Twack!” on my car’s driver side door. The driver had gotten out of his car and was berating me through the window of my car about “taking too much time,” and how I should “move on.” I pointed to the handicap placard hanging from my rearview mirror, but the driver only got more angry. He hit my car again with his hand and screamed that I “didn’t look handicapped,” and should move on.

I rolled down the window just enough so he heard me say, “Please don’t hit my car again,” and took a deep breath. And waited. Waited for my heart to stop pounding and for the space to come available.  Did I care what he thought about me? Well, I did care that he might become even more violent. But I was in the midst of a terrible, painful flare and knew that I wouldn’t be able to handle parking farther away and take care of my errands as I needed to. As I pulled into the space, he gunned his engine and sped past. In the words of many Californians, “Whatever.”

That we care about others is part of our ministry. But that we also care for ourselves is part of it, too. Worrying too much about what others think of us, so long as we’re doing what we need to, is counterproductive and only heaps stress upon stress.  We cannot control how others react to us, nor can we control their emotions (I’m assuming that the driver of the car in the story above was having a bad day in more ways than one). We can only travel through the world with as much grace, fortitude, and compassion as possible. And hope that kindness is exercised or learned along the way.

Blessings for the day,
Maureen

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