Thursday, November 28, 2013

On Pain...and Thankfulness

Another year, another November...another time for thankfulness. Which is a good thing, right? Though it would be better if many of us could practice gratitude all year's not always that easy. Life is full of struggles, frustrations, and heartbreaks. It's the resilient soul who's in it for the long haul, picking 'em up and laying 'em down day after day after day. Sometimes what we have doesn't seem like much to be grateful for, but it always is; isn't there? No matter what circumstance brings...

I will be 47 next year. And that means it has been nearly twenty years since I was first diagnosed with a chronic disease. I don't talk about it much, though those who are close to me know about it, because it typically doesn't add anything positive to anyone's experience...and I like to focus on the positive. But it has led me to a lot of positive places, so I thought I'd share about that a little.

- It's taught me how to learn to say no more often, because declining some opportunities has been necessary. Missing out on the fun? Yeah, probably some. But taking care of my body so I can function regularly (and by function, I mean, Get out of bed. Brush my teeth. Move around)? Well worth missing out on some opportunities, no? Saying no is a skill that most of us could stand to work on. I was fortunate to learn the necessity of it at a fairly young age.

- It's taught me to be grateful. For what? Daily pain? Sometimes unmanageable pain? Well, no...but grateful for the times when I can manage it, when it recedes to barely noticeable instead of I can barely move this hurts so effing much. Whether that management is through pain meds, diet, exercise, or just blind luck (and many times, it's just blind luck), I'm grateful for the times when my body works with me, rather than against me. I'm grateful for what it can do, and I try not to focus on what it can't.

- It's taught me to be choosier. Because I have a limited amount of time and energy to devote to my career, my relationships, my exercise, my energy is fragile and I have to be very careful of overdoing physically. Even some simple household tasks are pretty much verboten now, or the consequences will be severe. And I have to watch my emotional energy as well, so I am careful to direct the greatest amounts of it to my close peeps. My girls who have been on the ropes with me. My endlessly patient husband. I'd love to know more people better, but it's hard - it's hard for anyone, as the world seems to whirl faster and faster for us all, but I find that sometimes I have to choose not to reach out and try to get to know people better because sometimes I don't have enough to give. And that's taught me the perils of dwelling in the negative, of dealing with the narcissists, the toxic people, the passive-aggressives. I avoid negative people like my life (or at least my physical and emotional well-being) depends on it. And I feel no remorse whatsoever about that.  :)

- It's taught me to cherish the moments. Because I don't know when I'll have another good stretch...or more accurately, I don't know when a manageable stretch will end. And when a manageable stretch ends, it's like running head first into a wall - WHAM! - and allofasudden the pain is unbearable. But in the times when it's somewhat under control, I cherish whatever space of time that might be. The only tricky part is to not get excited and do too much while I'm feeling relatively well. Because usually I'll pay for that later. Knowing how much is too much? That's the hard part. I could do the same exact things twice and have no pain one time, lots of pain another. Unpredictability is my disease's middle name. So when those moments of respite occur, I want to be very present, appreciating the smallest details.

Yeah, it sucks. Sometimes it really sucks. But it's taught me resiliency, gratitude, how to play the long game, it's taught me when showing up is - and isn't - important, it's taught me that you've got to at least get up in the morning. Every day. No matter how shitty you might feel. And if that proves to be too much, then by all means, go back to bed if necessary. But on a lot of days, getting up, moving around, loosening up the muscles and joints will get you at least part of the way there. Sometimes your positive attitude will get you a good bit further...and sometimes, every so often, the universe grants you a boon - a close-to-pain-free day. And that...that is AWESOME. Awesomeness should always be appreciated.  :)

So this Thanksgiving, as always, I am grateful. Grateful for the understanding of friends and family, especially my husband. Thankful for my abilities. For being able to live and work my creative passion. For the people who teach me lessons, every day. Who tell me the "ouchie" things that make me examine, or re-examine, myself. For those who "don't tell me what I want to hear". For the people who don't know it, or don't know it often enough, but they're my heroes. Sometimes, my saviors. The good hearts. The strong souls. The many of you have been my lights over the years and I can never thank you enough.

"Every day we are given stones. But what do we build? Is it a bridge, or is it a wall?' - proverb, author unknown

Happy, happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Eat well, hug it out, find peace. It's a good day to be present and enjoy the moments...

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