New Radicals - You Get What You Give
Get to Know the New You in a Life of Chronic Pain
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I’m a different person now than the one I used to be. The effect of disease and daily pain has a tendency to bring about change. I know that dreaded word, change. It seems to be all around us as life progresses. “Going through the change” is a phrase we hear uttered so often about women and menopause. For the guys we say, “Oh, he’s going through a mid-life crisis.” For many of us, male and female, change is thrown at us from many arenas of life. “The change” can mean the loss of health, a job, a loved one, or a calamity that has taken away a beloved home. Change can also mean growth, blossoming, and renewal. It can be shown in learning something we previously didn’t know, sharing some knowledge with a friend, or getting to know someone old or new to us whom we did not really take the time to know previously.
I’ve often wondered, why are we so greatly surprised by change? Perhaps it is because we develop and build comfort zones for ourselves and hate to be dislodged from them. Maybe it’s the special effort it requires when we don’t feel like expending any effort at all. Then again, it might be because it indicates we are no longer in control of our own lives. We ask ourselves, “Hey, who’s in charge here?” So often, it’s not us. We often have to learn to take back our lives in spite of change.
For me, I think it is each of these topped off by the exhausting, life-altering reality of living with daily pain. I sometimes look around and realize those of us who suffer are only a small portion of this life that is ever changing around us. The trees are losing their leaves. Flowers are dying and the perennials are going into hibernation. We’ve just had an election which will bring some new leadership. Children are growing taller and blossoming into the people they will one day be. Adults are growing older, especially past Presidents. That’s a difficult job and it certainly shows. Then I look at myself in the mirror and think, “You don’t look nearly as bad as you feel but you’re certainly no spring chicken.”
That’s when the brevity of life and all of these changes dial up with a wake-up call. Time is fleeting and it is no respecter of the degree of pain, the alterations in my life, nor does it seem to care about any battle I wage against it. That’s when I try to be honest with myself and admit this disease and suffering has brought me many special gifts. The gift I cherish the most is the gift of self-awareness.
Many of my values have been altered. I’m not in as much of a hurry to get ahead, to go or to accomplish as I once was. That’s a good thing because I can’t hurry that well due to painful joints, don’t find myself on the go as much, and as far as accomplishments; I find I cherish them far more than I used to. I’m certain many of you would agree with me regarding a marked change in our priorities. Some things just don’t matter anymore. Bigger and newer is no longer on the list. Smaller and manageable is. Fairly clean has replaced immaculately spotless.
I have less time for and am more intolerant of the trivialities of life and more time for what’s important. I can spend all day playing with a grandchild while we delve into a jar of Jelly Bellies and pretend to fight over which color we’re going to grab. The other day, two small grandchildren and I each had a hand in the jar and none of us would budge. We were laughing so hard we couldn’t speak. Now, that’s important. Yesterday, a dear friend who has cancer and I were watching a huge blue jay swing on her bird feeder as the tiny birds beneath gobbled up the seeds that fell to the grass below. That sharing, the friendship, the laughter, that’s important.
I have changed and my guess is so have you. Chronic pain has reminded me to do what I love to do, whether I’m very good at it or not. It doesn’t matter. It’s doing it that matters. We’re not all meant to be a Shakespeare, a Van Gogh, or a scientist. I don’t have time for telephone surveys. Does anyone? Do you think anyone sits there and listens to recorded phone calls from strangers? Therefore, I pity you if you call my house in either of those capacities.
The new me, the aware me, sees with brighter eyes all that is around me and my sense of wonder is more profound each day. Sometimes the pain tries to act like it’s in charge and I have to slap it down and put it back in its place. This is my life and I kind of like the new me, battered, worn and aging. None of that matters, does it?
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