I don't talk about it much (because, dude--BORING), but I live with pain 24/7 and have since I was twenty-four. I'm Fifty-three now...you do the math. That's when I developed fibromyalgia, which is basically Latin for "ow, everything hurts and they don't know why." And recently I got hit with a new pain thingy, which is just too irksome and weird to go into here, but it seriously effects my ability to travel and exercise, and is just generally Not Fun.
Mostly, there isn't much that can be done about either of these issues (or the tendonitis that comes from being a writer who also uses a computer at work). I do stretches and some mild exercise, use a number of non-traditional approaches like acupuncture, massage, Reiki, and hypnotherapy, and on the very worst days, take Tylenol with codeine, which is so mild it pretty much does nothing. Frankly, a glass of wine with dinner is usually more effective, and much more pleasant. For the most part, I just live with it all and do the best I can.
So if I don't usually talk about it--why bring it up now?
A couple of reasons. For one, I'm having the fibro flare-up of the century; probably the worst I've dealt with in ten years or so. I blame it on the crazy weather patterns we've had here recently (I find that my fibro tends to respond badly to drastic barometric pressure changes...I can tell you when a storm is coming before the Weather Channel ever puts up an alert). And maybe hormones. I blame everything on menopause hormones. Go ahead; prove I'm wrong.
But mostly, it is because I've been thinking a lot about pain lately. Not just physical pain, because sometimes that's the least of our worries. The Boston bombing started me off, and then I had a major crisis with one of my most important friendships, and I have two friends who are dealing with the pain of having seriously ill husbands, and then yesterday, my pal Bryan had to bury his smart, sweet, 18 year old son. I'm pretty sure that his pain far outreaches mine at the moment, and will for a long time.
Here's the thing about chronic pain, whether it is physical, emotional, or spiritual: for the most part, you just have to live with it. There's no choice. No magic wand to whisk it away, no miracle pill to cure what ails you. It just IS.
But you do have a choice about HOW you live with it. My earlier years of dealing with chronic illness (there was other stuff too) were miserable. I was miserable, and I'm pretty sure anyone who was unlucky enough to be in the same room with me was miserable too. There might have been whining...
These days, I try, as much as possible, to deal with the pain with a little more grace. This doesn't mean I never have a bad day, or complain to one of my friends, or even spend a few minutes first thing in the morning cursing out loud as I try to get my body moving. (The cats don't seem to care, as long as I am moving towards their food bowls.) But mostly, I just get on with things.
That's what it comes down to, really. My friends whose husbands are ill are a perfect example of this. They're unhappy, and worried, and scared, and feel helpless in the face of the pain of those they love, but they are doing the best they can to put one foot in front of the other, and just live their lives the best they can.
Grace under pressure.
I learned a long time ago that attitude is everything. You can't always choose what crap life will throw at you next, but you can choose how you deal with it. I try to keep a positive attitude, and a sense of humor, and not to take my pain out on those around me. I remind myself often that there is always someone who is way worse off than me. (If you have seen any of the videos of the Boston victims, vowing from their hospital beds that this isn't going to ruin their lives, you know what I mean. Grace under pressure, many of them.)
For people like my friend Bryan, it will be a long time before life returns to anything resembling normal, and even longer before the pain begins to subside. But when I saw him yesterday, greeting the long line of people who had come to pay their respects, and share his pain in what small ways they could, it reminded me that the people I respect the most have this trait in particular. Grace under pressure.
I don't always pull it off perfectly, and I sometimes have to struggle to keep a positive attitude in the face of (as the Irish say) shite. But pain isn't who I am; it is just something I live with. I have a new motto that I'm using to help me try and hold on to that attitude:
I choose happiness and health.
Whenever I feel whiny or resentful about the pain (physical or otherwise), I say it to myself: I choose happiness and health.
What do you choose? And do you have a motto that helps to get you through? I'd love to hear it if you do.