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Good Days…Bad Days With Maureen Pratt

Second close-up of pictureIn a way, we who have seriouis health challenges are ambassadors for the patient population that still wants to be as active as possible, but not compromise health to do so. That is, we want to be part of the world, part of society, but cannot entertain environments or situations where we would set our health at risk of getting worse. For me, for example, being out in the sun or under glaring fluorescents is simply a non-starter when it comes to agreeing to events or activities during the day or extended periods indoors. I cannot risk a worsened flare or ill-effects from expsure to too much heat and UV rays.

But instead of complaining about this constraint, I do try to solve the problem and offer creative solutions to do so. If the event is at a friend’s house, for example, might I enjoy the event indoors instead? Or, if it is at a park, is there a building with adequate protection? I cannot play tennis during the day at all, but if my pain is not flaring, I might be able to do so after dusk (or just before, when shadows on the courts make it easy to avoid the last rays of the sun.

There are many constraints in a life that revolves around symptoms, doc visits, tests, and back again to hem us in. And there are many times when not even an accommodation is enough to enable us to take part in something we’d otherwise jump into eagerly. But, if we get a little creative (healthfully so) about what we can, at least for a little while, we can feel less constrained – and more like what we dream of: a participant in this beautiful, vast world beyond the proverbial sickroom.

Joy and peace,

Maureen

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Second close-up of pictureValentine’s Day reminds me of a particular February 14, a snowstorm, and an unexpected revelation.

My grandmother had passed, and I was trying to get to her funeral in Chicago. I made it as far as St. Louis when a wicked deep-winter storm grounded all flights. Just before the massive stoppage,, some flights managed to make it into the airport. This was before security measures made it impossible for people to greet flights. So, besides passengers getting off of planes and streaming into the airport, there were lots of people waiting for them and, as it was Valentine’s Day, these greeters had huge bouquets of flowers, boxes of chocolates, and very enthusiastic embraces for their arriving loved ones.

I knew my flight to Chicago was already canceled, and I had as yet not been able to get a hotel room. The flurry of loving greetings all around me was in stark contrast to my own situation – alone, nowhere to stay, chilled, and mourning a loss. Oh, my, it was not a comfortable situation to say the least. And it got worse. I was finally able to get a reservation at a nearby hotel. Through blinding snow, I made my way to the place, only to find that the room they gave me was actually a storage closet filled floor to ceiling with old telephones leftover from a remodeling! The next room was all right, but I discovered it had been double-booked when a strange man used a key and walked right in just as I’d begun to get settled in! (The front desk said, “Oh, sorry,” and gave him a different room…)

By the time snow had cleared and flights resumed, it was too late to get to my grandmother’s funeral. So, I opted for a flight to central Illinois, where my family was gathering after the mass and burial farther north. We were a bedraggled sight, but glad to be reunited.

Then, the telephone rang. A cousin’s husband had died suddenly in yet another city. Funeral arrangements were in the making. And travel plans for some were being revised again. But this time, unlike my experience in St. Louis, we were together and there was great comfort in being so.

All of this was before my diagnosis with lupus. But this experience still teaches me about how wonderful being with loved ones is, no matter the circumstances. Through storms, deaths, misdirected travel – all roads lead to the love of people who know us well, appreciate who we are, and care. I was mighty alone on that Valentine’s Day, and feeling emotionally low. But even so, by traveling through that chilly storm, my heart found comfort.

This weekend, celebrate Valentine’s Day with dear ones far and near, no matter how alone you might be feeling. It doesn’t have to take a big bouquet of flowers or chocolate, but only presence, attention, appreciation, and love.

Joy and peace,

Maureen

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Image courtesy of Marcus/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Marcus/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I do not know anyone who does not like to eat. And, along with the physical activity of chowing down, we all have our favorite foods.  During Lent, some will give up a favorite or two, as a way of sacrificing something to draw deeper into the season. A priest once encouraged me not to “give up,” but to “add” something instead – an act of charity, an extra hour or two in prayer. Something positive. Something profound.

This year, I’m going to add something to my meals. No, not an extra helping! 🙂 Rather, I’m going to add an extra prayer for those whose hands helped bring the food to the table. I don’t know their names, but I know their work – and it is good. I don’t see them in the fields or behind the plows, but I know that they are making good use of their time – and I appreciate it. I cannot thank them all in person, although I would like to – so, I pray for them and their families.

With the election cycle heating up, and much of the news focused on more rural parts of the country, I have heard more than one disparaging remark about “rural people,” and especially farmers. For some reason, there are some people who think little of the those who till the land and harvest the crops. As if knowing how to farm and doing it well were not a skill requiring attention, patience, knowledge, and physical stamina (which it does). Ironically, the same people who would think less of a farmer than someone in urban areas would never want to give up eating!  Oh, dear…

Adding to my prayers,  I’ll also lift up those people who talk down about farmers and farming. May they have an opportunity sometime to dig in the dirt and come away more appreciative of the dedication and work of those who give us the food on our tables!

Joy and peace,

Maureen

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Image courtesy of SiraAnamwong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of SiraAnamwong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Lent begins again, so quickly! Seems like we just celebrated Christmas, with all the joy and light, and are now abruptly throwing that off for something much more somber. At time of atonement, soul-searching, and personal, spiritual cleansing.

But do we truly need to forget Christmas? Do we have to proceed into this Lent with heavy hearts and eyes and ears closed to more uplifting thoughts and actions?

Could it be that there is some joy in the soul-searching? Something positive in our atonement?

For me, Ash Wednesday is the herald of a season that I enter into eagerly, with hope and anticipation. It is a time of turning back to God, of taking more moments and long stretches of hours to examine my relationship with Our Lord and ways to make it ever stronger, ever present in my daily life. This particular year, a Jubilee Year with a focus on mercy, is also an invitation to improve the ways I interact with others, help others, and communicate with others.  This is wonderful, not at all somber and heavy-hearted. More time with God! More time trying to improve as a person! What a gift!

So, although the ashes might make a very dark smudge at the center of my forehead, they also feather outward and dust downward, a reminder that this is a holy time and also a hopeful time, a blessed gift and an opportunity.

Joy and peace,

Maureen

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