Good Days…Bad Days With Maureen Pratt

Good Days…Bad Days With Maureen Pratt

Chronic Illness: What Is Your Vocation?

posted by mpratt

Maureen Pratt Author Pic)n this Labor Day weekend, as we relax and unwind, we might inevitably think about the work that we do and wonder what in the world it has to do with our overall, spiritual purpose in life. This might be a fairly straightforward thing to do if you have a “regular” job, one that, perhaps, takes advantage of your training, education, and skills, and brings you great fulfillment.

But if you have chronic illness or pain and cannot work outside the home, or cannot hold down even a home-based job, finding vocation within daily life can be much more difficult.

I remember in the first days surrounding my diagnosis of lupus, and the orders from my doctors to stop working immediately, reaching out to everyone I knew and asking them about possible jobs I could have that would be doable given my catastrophic health situation. Of course, there was no way I could take any of them, but I was filled with great anxiety at the thought that I’d be unproductive for the rest of my life.

As lupus got worse, and I was farther from the working world, however, I began to realize that illness, and a faith-centered life with and inspite of it, is a very valid vocation. This was further validated by several talks given by the late Pope John Paul II, who remained pope although he was debilitated from Parkinson’s.

When we consider our illness and pain as a vocation, then we can move ahead to being productive and fulfilled. We can help others navigate the maze of feelings and practical matters surrounding a new and horrible diagnosis. We can communicate to others about our illness and what it means to us and society – and also clearly define the best way to help.

Illness as vocation also helps us connect the struggles we endure with God’s love for us; yes, we have terrible days of pain, but we also have very good days, where we make progress or receive and give kindness. Days where we make a difference.

Within the confines of chronic illness, it’s so easy to become gloomy and think that life is only going on “out there,” apart from us, and that we have nothing to give an nothing to gain from our desperate condition.

But we have much to give and gain, really, if we turn the tables on sadness and hopelessness and seek our vocation right where we are. Here. Now. With all of our brokenness and all of our gifts.

Then we can experience calm, gain strength, and really honor and benefit from the very special gift we all have: Life

Blessings for the day,

Maureen

Rest for the Weary

posted by mpratt

Maureen Pratt Author PicI met up with a neighbor recently. I hardly ever see her because she’s always working. But on this day, she was dressed casually, carrying a department store shopping bag, and wearing a cautiously cheery smile.

“Off today?’ I asked her.

“Yes, for once,” she replied. Her smile faded a little and she glanced down at the ground.

“It kind of makes you feel guilty, taking a day off sometimes, doesn’t it?” I asked, understanding immediately her disconnect between having a rare bit of leisure and thinking of the work that still needed to get done.

She looked up at me, clearly grateful.

“Yes,” she said. “It feels weird.”

It can be very hard to know how to relax when you’re working all the time. Even those who are too ill to “hold down” a regular job (or two) can undertand that sense of lost that can come over us when we finish our day’s duties and have a stretch of down time.

But rest is important, and certainly not something to feel guilty about. Especially if you have a health challenge, rest is a way for us to give our bodies the chance to relax, rejuvenate, and become stronger. It’s also a way for us to recharge our spirits, which can be very neglected if we’re working 24/7.

This Labor Day, as we take

Say What?

posted by mpratt

A kind mouth multiplies friends,

and gracious lips prompt friendly greetings.

Sirach 6:5

Image courtesy of Arvind Balarman/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Arvind Balarman/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Some days, nothing seems to go right. More symptoms. More pain. Insurance snags. Money troubles. The roof leaks. The dog runs away.  No one answers your calls.

Yup, some days, there’s nothing good to be said. Or, is there?

I’ve battled, cajoled, and otherwise dealt with myriad problems since even before my diagnosis of lupus more than 14 years ago, and the one thing I’ve learned is that no one feels better getting angry at the person on the other end of the line. I don’t feel better, and certainly the person receiving the angry words doesn’t feel better.

But the reverse is an even more potent lesson: Staying calm and kind can move the proverbial mountain.

By this, I don’t mean accepting the unacceptable. But, when it comes to unsnarling a tangle of the inevitable administrative problems that arise along with life in general, the patient but persistent style tends to yield better results than the bombastic and verbally abusive one.

But, how to remain calm and show Christ’s love if we’re hurting deeply and the problem is great?

Prayer. Deep breathing. More prayer. Humility. Remembering the Golden Rule of “doing unto others.” And a large helping of, “Maybe I should put this off until I’m in a better mood.”

Other things that help me remember that I’m not dealing with a company on the phone, but rather with an individual, a brother or sister in Christ, is to make sure I know the name of the person to whom I’m speaking, even to the point of knowing how to spell it. I ask how they are doing. I might mention the weather and empathize if it is not good where the person is. I try – it’s hard, but I try – to understand the extent to which the first person I speak with can help me, and ask to speak with a manager if I think that I’m just spinning my wheels.

And, I pray, breathe, pray, and try to remain as calm as possible.

The reading from Sirach reminds us of the benefit of speaking kindly: The person at the other end of the line might not become a fast friend, but he or she might indeed be able to move that mountain!

Blessings for the day,

Maureen

National Dog Day

posted by mpratt
Image courtesy of worradmu/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of worradmu/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

August 26 has been named “National Dog Day,” and it’s a fine time to remember all the wonderful ways our furry friends enhance our lives, whether we have chronic pain and illness or not.

I’ve known some remarkable dogs. There was Kolya, a Great Pyranees that served people at UCLA Medical Center by visiting the sick, young and old. One day, I did rounds with Kolya and was amazed when the small-pony-sized canine gently stepped up and onto more than one patient’s hospital bed, stretched out, and relaxed, bringing a palpable sense of calm to the patients and a smile to all who watched.

There was the Scottish terrier that was our family pet for many years, feisty and stubborn, but fiercely loyal.

There was the “hearing helping” dog at the pharmacy I used to go to, a companion to another customer who was audibly challenged and who relied on the little dog with the big ears to alert her when important noises sounded.

The seeing eye dog, a German shepherd, that I saw recently that prevented its companion from stepping onto a busy street was more than remarkable, he/she was a true hero.

And the many household dogs that are constant reminders of the importance of the simple life, a life of play and napping and humor and care. These dogs, too, deserve a kind word and a nod.

I hope that you have a fine National Dog Day, and that you take a bit of time to give a pat or a scritch or, perhaps, a treat, to your favorite pooch. Or, perhaps, if you’ve been thinking about it, but have hesitated, perhaps you might adopt a dog today.  Many are waiting for good homes!

Blessings for the day,

Maureen

 

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