Sunday, November 27, 2016

Praise or Pain?

I live in constant chronic pain.  I hit the jackpot with all three types, muscular, skeletal, and nerve!  WOOHOO!  If I had been born 50 years earlier I would have been called a cripple.  I would have been homebound...ALL THE TIME, by the extreme levels of this sensation that we call pain.

Pain has a purpose.  Pain tells us to take care of whatever happens to be hurting.  My nephew as a small boy stepped on a multi pronged fishhook that settled deep into his toe.  I was the only available adult in my family at the time.  It was NOT fun to take that sweet young boy to a doctor knowing that it would be a painful experience.

On the other hand, if that fishhook did not hurt?  What if he had just merrily gone along his way?  Of course, the toe would have become infected, which would have turned very nasty, and he may have lost his toe or more of his body.  PAIN HAS A PURPOSE!

I do not, and will not believe that a healthy mind looks for ways to experience pain.  If you see pain as a joyous experience, well, that's a subject for someone much wiser than I am!  I guess we can use for an example the character in Little Shop of Horror's who ADORES going to the dentist.  That's enough said about that!

Here is a question?  Why on earth would a person with a reasonably healthy mind praise pain?  My husband once told me that he had decided, "Pain is just a sensation.  It doesn't have to be defined as good or bad.  It's just a different way to feel."

He was far more evolved than I am.  I dislike intensely feeling pain.  Yet I have learned in my journey that when I awaken in the morning instead of cursing the pain that I feel, praising the medicine that will help me feel closer to normal (whatever normal means...I guess normal for me), begins my day on a positive plane.

There are always things to praise.  I praise the chance to live in a new day.  I praise the chance to be close to my family.  I praise the Christmas holidays and all of the joy that they bring.

I have found that praising, giving active thanks, is like having a key that unlocks secret doors.  In the book/movie, "The Secret Garden," the adorable young girl finds a lost key to a garden that has been allowed to grow over, and turn into a secret patch of weeds.  She has lost both of her parents and lives with an uncle who is entirely morose and rarely home.  The key to the garden opens her soul to a plethora of opportunity for praise and gratitude.

I am continually touched and amazed at the secret gardens that have opened to my vision as I discover the key through difficulty, and pain.  Within those experiences of feeling far less than I would like to feel, I find ways to connect and understand my brothers and sisters of the human race.

I have learned the things in life that REALLY matter.  Trust me, financial wealth, a fancy house, and spiffy cars, well they are nice (I'm not completely crazy), but they are not even close to the most important things in life.

The things that I cling to as I focus on praise and not pain,  are many more than I wish to discuss in this post.  The number one praise worthy gift is faith.  It is a most simple word, with a multitude of meanings.  The faith that I refer to is an active power.  It has the power to help you push through all of the most difficult things that life can hand you.  The following are but a few types of this faith infused with a real power that I am referring to.  Faith in God, however you may perceive him or her, faith in family, faith in yourself, and your capacity for overcoming, these types of faith give life meaning, and color. 

I already mentioned praise, and it stands as the title at the top of the column for this discussion.  This week I will touch on one or two other doors that can be opened by the seemingly negative experiences that life can hold. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

Sarah and Rose

Sarah felt like pulling the covers over her head, and never climbing out of bed, again, ever!  Her husband, the sweetheart of 46 years of her life had passed away.  She couldn't drive a car anymore.  Even with two hearing aids her hearing was problematic.  She hurt lots, due to fibromyalgia, arthritis, and 86 years of living.

To make things even bleaker, she had lived in the same neighborhood for almost 30 years, and now she had to move across town.  Her son and daughter-in law had built a beautiful new house.  She was grateful to live there with them.  At the same time, she couldn't drive back to her friends, and she knew nobody in this neighborhood.

Now the self-pity did it's best to hit her where it hurt the most.  "Why would anyone even care about knowing me?  I can't hear what people say a lot of the time.  If they speak rapidly, I'm lost.  I have nothing to offer to anyone any more."

Finally, after a bout of self pity she dragged herself out of bed.  It didn't help her that her daughter-in laws parents lived in the same house.  "At least they still have each other," she grumbled silently.

She tried not to give in to her feelings of discouragement but as soon as possible after a meal she would retreat again into her bedroom.  In there she would watch TV, but her mind was usually far away from the images that the television displayed.

One day she met a neighbor from across the street.  Sydney was her name.  She was charming and made Sarah feel as though she genuinely cared about her.  Sarah became even more interested when she learned that Sydney's Mother-in law had come all the way from the Phillipines to live with their family.

The first meeting was extremely awkward.  Rose spoke fluent English, but her Phillipine accent was so thick that Sarah could barely understand what she was saying.  Rose realized that Sarah was having a hard time understanding her.  Somehow they looked at each other, and then both began to chuckle.  The differences of culture, language, and age fell away.  They were two old ladies living with their sons and their families.

It wasn't long before they visited back and forth often.  Sarah liked to sit in the front yard and watch the sunset.  Soon Rose would join Sarah.  They would sit silently, watching the majesty of the golden light disappearing into the Great Salt Lake.

Rose was a Christian.  Sarah was a Christian.  They were from different denominations of Christianity.  Rose's church was not local so she began to attend her children's church.  Sarah also attended there.  Soon they sat together, the two oldest women in the church group.  Sarah would try to evangelize Rose.  Rose would smile and nod when Sarah preached.  Rose would simply say, "Maybe sometime."

Their differences didn't seem to matter.  It was the things that they had in common that made their friendship flourish.  Both loved to garden.  They exchanged things that they had grown.  They both loved to cook, and soon they exchanged dishes from their kitchens.  They shared their life stories.  Both had experienced the hardest struggles of life.  Rose was a widow like Sarah.  Their friendship grew stronger. 

Sarah awakened one morning and realized that she didn't feel discouraged any more.  Rose was a good friend.  Sarah was grateful to realize that friendship can happen at any age.  With joy Sarah got up and prepared for a new day.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Love in Eyes of Brown

He was all tumbly, his skin pink, brown spots all over.  His eyes were still closed but he followed his Mama blindly trying to nurse constantly.  Poor Rosie, his Mama, was not yet a year old and this was her second litter.  Now she had three small hungry pups, and one large pup who never seemed to get enough food.

Quickly Sarah and I knew that this adorable boy was ours!  He was the giant of the litter, easily twice the size of his other three siblings.  He was supposed to be a pure bred, pedigreed black poodle.  It was easy to see that the breeding practices in the puppy mill his Mother had been rescued from were not credible.  He looked far more Bichon Friese than Poodle.

What IS a Bichon Friese?  That is a good question.  We all have heard of poodles with their qualities both good and bad.  Bichon Friese's are not known quite as commonly.  They are distant cousins to the Poodle.  Oftentimes they are not quite as intelligent.  On the flip side, they are also not as high strung.  They have very loving dispositions.

I will use a little story as a demonstration of how blessed we were with Rolly's combo parentage.  Sir Oliver Wendell Holmes was a prominent attorney in the changing of the 19th to the 20th century.   His intelligence was well documented.

One day he received a letter from a beautiful actress on the theatrical stage.  Her letter said (paraphrased), Sir...I propose that we make a match.  With your brilliant mind, and my grand beauty, I believe that we could create a child of superior abilities.  Please let me quickly know your decision regarding this matter.

Sir Oliver wrote back, (again paraphrased), Madam...I am honored by your proposal and your compliments in regards to my intelligence.  Unfortunately, there is a possibility that you have neglected to consider.  What if this child were to inherit MY looks and YOUR brains?

We were ever so blessed with our lucky little hybrid.  He had the brilliance of a Poodle mind.  His heart was equally brilliant.  His grin was guaranteed to lift a soul in despair.

At 5 weeks old the owner asked us to take him home.  Traditionally you leave a pup with its Mom and siblings until at least 8 weeks.  Poor little Rosie could not keep up with Rolly's demands for sustenance, and she had three other pups.

We brought home this tiny piece of fluffiness.  His brown eyes seemed to welcome me into his heart.  One of our kitties welcomed him by adoption.  We were stunned.  This kitty had been feral when we brought her home, still a kitten.  She taught him where to eat.  She groomed him, and taught him to groom himself.  She was even patient when he would gambol about her trying to get her to play with him.  He played in the awkward, tooth and wrestle way that puppies have.  It was plain that she was quietly ENDURING his play.  After about 5 minutes she would stand up, shake herself, and in a dignified manner RUN from this little hoyden.

Far too quickly seventeen years came and went.  The world rotated, our family dynamic changed drastically, and now our adorable pup was old.  His front legs didn't really want to work anymore.  He could no longer traverse the two short staircases in our house.  Yet he was no burden.  We had another small dog, and a cat, and they both adored him.

A block before our daughters would arrive home he would begin to bark, and nothing stopped him until they walked through the door.  He would then begin a dance of delight, even when he had to drag one leg about because it no longer worked properly.

We tried medicating him for pain.  We started in the daytime.  He HATED IT!  It made him feel unlike his usual self.  So we switched to medicating him at night.  This was a success as he slept better and had more energy the next day.

I knew that he would not last forever.  We conversed as a family, it's such a tender line when caring for an elderly pet.  Is there more of suffering than joy in his life?  Is it the responsible thing to euthanize a pet when old age has caused so much change?

We had made that oh so difficult decision two years previous with our beloved Katty.  She developed bladder cancer so it was not really a difficult decision.  She was MISERABLE!  Surgery could have helped, MAYBE, or it could have made her even worse.  At  18 years old she might not even survive the anesthesia.  It was with a heavy heart that we made the heart breaking decision to euthanize her.

I could NOT make that decision for Rolly.  My husband used to tease me that Rolly was my favorite child.  He was NOT my favorite human child.  He WAS my favorite fur child.  Over 17 years of life and love he had wrapped himself oh so warmly into my heart.

I was reading when I heard his breathing become labored.  He had been a happy normal just two hours previous when I took him outside to the "bathroom."  As usual he had turned his smiling face into the breeze.

Now it was obvious that he was dying.  I did not know if it would be soon or later.  At 17 there were no life saving practices given.  We all will die sometime, and I knew that this was his time.  Knowing that, did not bring me much comfort as I watched my sweetie dying by degrees.

We had purchased a special doggy stroller to take him for walks when his legs no longer would make it further than the driveway.  He would sit up in his stroller with a firm and happy smile attached to his beautiful face.

Gently I eased him into the stroller and took him for a very short walk.  Next I put him in our backyard and dashed inside to get a sheet for both of us to lie on.  When I returned it was ever so obvious that his life had ended.  Sobbing I held him and rocked him, just as I had done when he was a puppy.  Time ceased to exist as I realized that my life was now going on without his gentle love.

Our family and a dear friend went through the process of preparing a grave on the hillside.  It is a lovely place that Rolly loved, under trees, and close to the path of deer.  Wrapped in an oh so soft blanket we placed him tenderly in his last resting place.  In with him went one of his favorite toys, and a charming wood cookie inscribed with his name, dates of birth and death.  Covering his grave with dirt was excruciating.  We collected beautiful rocks and placed them over his grave.

I loathe washing the dishes.  This week it has been an unbearable task because now the window before me reveals Rolly's grave.  Each new viewing is a jolt as I once again face the inevitability of death.  It has been all the excuse I have needed to ignore those nasty dishes.

Yesterday I lay down for a nap.  A wonderful dream filled my sleeping.  I saw Rolly, perfect, with his magnificent grin firmly in place.  He was standing on the hill where we buried him.  There were no markings of age.  Once again he was the magnificent, adorable, and ever so happy doggy that we adored.  The gentle breeze tangled and tickled in his fur.

I will keep this image firmly imprinted on my mind.  His grin of love will also stay with me, until once again I hear his bark as he races to meet me again.  I love you Rolly, and you ARE my favorite fur child of all time!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Pain - A Blessing?

When you break your leg it hurts.  From all that I understand it hurts A LOT!  There is a good reason behind this experience.  There are three types of pain that our body can produce, muscle, nerve, and skeletal.  All three of these parts of our body are impacted when a bone breaks.

The pain tells us that something is very wrong, we need help.

Now imagine that same broken leg.  It doesn't hurt.  There are no body alarms systems warning you to receive care.  You continue to walk about, live your normal life, all the time you are causing more and more damage to your body.  Quickly the damage would reach a point where you couldn't function.

Pain actually can be a blessing.  It is our bodies early warning system telling us that we need to care for something.  When an injury occurs, the injury sends signals to the brain.  The brain then sends signals to the injured part of our anatomy.  This pain signal impels us to a doctor, or emergency room.  In doing this we can prevent further, and possibly more permanent injury.

What if these normal pain signals become OVER sensitive?  What if a simple hangnail impels your body to send out signals of pain EVERYWHERE in your body?  How do your approach such a wide range of symptoms?

Welcome to the world of many autoimmune disorders, and long term body injuries.  There are injuries that science does not know how to repair.  These injuries can become cumulative.  Over time they may become more serious.  They can disrupt each and every part of life as you frantically run from clinician to clinician trying to discover what is wrong, and how to cope with it.  The usual approach to injury is to fix it.  What if the injury is far too widespread to ever be fixed?

One of my friends was awakened in the night by severe pain all down her left leg.  When she tried to get up to go to the bathroom, the leg would not hold her weight.  It collapsed leaving her on the floor, frightened, and uncertain.

 Surgery was able to fix some of this injury.  It could not heal all of the nerve damage in that leg,and in many of her internal organs.  She lost her job, her home, her car, and for awhile she was homeless, on the streets with two small children, and a leg that did not always hold her upright.

Somehow she found her way through the social system.  She was able to gain Social Security Disability, housing, food, and the medications that she needed.  People reached out to her and her family with assistance.

She in turn, knowing just how flawed the system can be, blessed the lives of others whenever she could.  She helped distribute food to the needy.  She educates people that need help with insurance or the social systems for medical assistance.

Finding methods to help others gives her great joy.  She still reaches out with love whenever possible.  She is the type of friend who always has a gift for you, a cookie, a fridge magnet, meaningful, loving gifts.  Has her pain stopped?  No.  She has learned ways and means to make her pain more bearable.      

Can there possibly be any positive thing to gain from experiencing pain and/or disability?  If I could change my life, never face the pain, illness, challenges that have been my personal journey I would also have to give back the lessons, wisdom, and intelligence I have gained from my experience on earth.  I would not wish to do that.

Having said that, would I wish anyone to face pain that would continue for their rest of their lives?  NO!  Yet I am grateful for the things that have taught me about the human condition, and have pushed me towards understanding the commonalities of life.

I wish that I could reach through this computer to anyone facing a frightening diagnosis and say, "You can find a way.  There are others who will be able to help you.  YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

I can't do that, but I can hope and pray that in my small way I can reach someone with a message of hope.  There is love, and light, and joy even in times that seem completely hopeless, times of deep darkness, of pain. If you read this and know someone that needs that hope please give them a hug, send them a funny card, do something to reach out to someone else with hope for the future.