Wha’d Ya Say?

 

casting-stones
Pastel Drawing by Rose Wolfe

 

Not everything is worth saying, much less repeating.  In fact, we should probably spend a lot more time thinking before we let words tumble from our tongue.

A few days ago, I read another FaceBook rant.  Yes, I confess, I try to read everyone’s post.  It is a character flaw of mine.  Somewhere along the way, I developed the belief that if it is worth putting down on paper, then it must have some value, some weight.  After all, it takes initiative to articulate concepts.  Big mistake on my part.

At one point, there was an effort to writing.  Grammar, sentence structure, word choice, spelling – all the old rules of written communication.  While I will acknowledge that there are new ways of communicating and that rules do morph to reflect current trends, I still am stuck on the idea that giving life to words should mean something – something of value.

Instead, we have devolved into a multicultural, international mess of inarticulate, hotheaded, screaming mass.  In this tumultuous time of insanity, an eruption of control grabbing is spewing acidic hate around the globe.  Chants of peace and love have been married to war and hate.  Oh, and yes, we (whomever that might be), we are right.

What does all of this have to do with me, a handicapped woman trying to thrive in her Midwestern town?  Everything.  There are people struggling each day to “cope” with pain, disease, and despair.  All the while, physically healthy people are wasting their time – and mine – finding ways to bash or belittle another person.

So, before, you write another rant about some topic that happened to fall into your mind, take a moment to think.

Wha’d ya say that was worth my time?


Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Phil. 4:8

What Do You See?

 

Have you ever tried your high-beam headlights when driving in a dense fog?   Scary, isn’t it?  The greater the illumination, the less that you see.

Sometimes, medical personnel used their “high-beam headlights” when caring for the chronically ill; they are so intensely focused on their area of expertise that they cannot see the person before them. Scary, isn’t it?

Have you ever heard the joke:  What’s the difference between God and a doctor?  God knows he’s not a doctor.

Joking aside, I have a benevolent attitude regarding people, even doctors.  However, it is true that some medical care providers have trouble listening.  Still, doctors do their best with what tools they have available to them.  And, that is the problem: their tools.  Every doctor approaches their patients with a complete set of lights (beliefs) that they carry around with them.

Those of us within the chronic illness community have more doctor appointments than the average person; consequently, we begin to understand our doctors’ weaknesses and strengths.  In addition, we develop a greater understanding of our body’s messages.  We know when something is wrong, and often we know the likely culprit.  Yet, it is difficult to convince our doctors to see us through the fog of symptoms.

For example:  Because my lung muscles are inadequate, my blood oxygen levels drop during the night.  Consequently, I need a CPAP machine.  Essentially, it has two cycles: one which blows air into my lungs and another that stops blowing to allow air to be pushed out of my lungs.  Since my muscles are getting weaker, the pressure necessary to blow air into my lungs is continually being increased by my pulmonologist.  This is where it gets sticky for me.  The complicating factor is that my lung muscles are too weak to push the air out.  The result: a build-up of carbon dioxide in my bloodstream.  Not good.

How does the above work as an example?  Testing for carbon dioxide levels in the bloodstream is very expensive.  (In my case, this would be a low-beam headlight.)  Consequently, the relatively easy and cheap measurement of oxygen levels is used to measure lung function.  (The high-beam light.)  So, even though the results of the tests are indicating that I am getting adequate oxygenation at night (thanks to my CPAP), the test does not measure carbon dioxide levels – which are being elevated as a result.  The medical community is shining their bright light on the problem of oxygenation; however, the problem of carbon dioxide levels is hidden in the fog.

It is not only doctors who carry around a satchel of lights (attitudes and beliefs) that often blind us.  How I now approach a solution to the conundrum of oxygen/carbon dioxide all depends on what light I choose.  The reality may be that I cannot resolve the problem on my own.  I may have to battle the medical community (and insurance company) to take another look at the problem. Or, there may be no solution available.  No matter what, my perception will affect what I see.

All this to say the following:

Every person around us is facing difficulties.  Are we being blinded by our prejudices?  Can we see the person, or do we see our own light reflected back on us?

If you think you don’t pre-judge people, let me say two words:  Trump, Clinton.

Freedom and Bitterness

 

9/22/2016 “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” – Nelson Mandela

via Bitterness — Eyes + Words

 

The above photo and quote are reblogged from the Eyes & Words blog site.

In 1962, Nelson Mandela, an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa, was sentenced to life for conspiring to overthrow the state.  Due to international pressure and fear of a racial civil war, he was released after serving 27 years in prison.

 

Even though he had justifiable reasons to be angry and to encourage his supporters to seek retribution, he chose the path less traveled.  His decision to forgive and forge forward is helped him to be a great leader.  We all could stand to learn from his example.

Often, we imprison ourselves by our perceptions, attitudes, and thoughts.  We react to situations rather than respond.  Whatever situation you are facing right now, the choice is yours.

Do you choose bitterness or freedom?

For more of Eyes + Words blog posts, click here

It Is Just Too Much Work

one-step-at-a-time

 

“It . . .is . . .just . . .too . . .much . . .work.”

Frustration breaks our resolve, and our hearts collapse from the strain.

Chronic illness, which we must eat every day, is a fruit that’s bitter from the first bite.  The monotony of our psychological diet leaves us malnourished as we struggle to find the strength to fight to live a life beyond.

So, at some point, even the brave, whose banner reads “We will find a way to be content,” find themselves prostrate on the ground.  As you lean your ear to their mouth, you will hear them whisper, “It . . .is. . .just . . .too . . .much . . .work.”

Then, slowly, they bend one knee and then the other.  Grasping a handicap bar, they pull themselves up.  Their eyes tell the story: clear and focused on the day and its promise of pain, fatigue, trouble, and frustration.  With the smiles of Mona Lisas, they ask themselves, “Do we cry out to heaven with bitter tears?  Are we defeated?”

“No!”  Birds scatter as the sound carries from sea to shining sea.

The more I read, the more I find a deep resolve in the Chronic Illness Community.  Our struggles cannot be easily understood by those who do not experience the realities of our daily lives.  At times, darkness settles on us, and we do not have the energy to fight.  The length of time it takes for the depression to lift is unknown, unpredictable, and capricious.  We know it will release us, eventually.  However, in those bleak moments, it is just too much work.  We need to remove ourselves from the demands around us.

Nevertheless, the more I read blogs written by people suffering from the wide blanket of chronic illness, the more I am amazed at their spirit.  The heartbreaking and heartwarming stories carry the same underlying theme:  It is just too much work, but I will not give up.

I love this aspect of my community.  For the past six years, I have been determined to live despite my disease.  I want to do all that I can for as long as I can.  Sometimes this means tackling two steps to enter a friend’s house.  Sometimes it means that I spend time with family even though I can hardly stay awake.  Other times, I need to listen to my body and bow out of activities I was looking forward to attending.  In the end, I have articulated my determination into the motto Never Give Up.

Often, I see wheelchair-bound people without any spark in them.  My heart bleeds for them.  Could it be that their resolve has been broken by daily frustrations?   I watch them look at me, then my wheelchair, and then into my eyes.  I smile a little; they smile a little in return.  As we engage in an easy conversation, their words expose their pain.  The mirror reflecting their value is cloudy, and their reflection distorted.  In the midst of despair, they fuss and find reasons not to participate in any activities.  Even though we both hope that the feeling will pass, their eyes reveal their secret.  As they complain to me, they are covertly saying, “I don’t want to do anything.  It’s too much work.”

They’re right.  It is too much work  – but, we will encourage one another to do it anyway.  After all, what are our choices?

Looking Through a Glass Darkly

Perception_edited-1

You just might be wrong.

Because you believe something doesn’t make it true.  Your perception is a reality, not the reality.

Take my uncle for example.  Diagnosed with myotonic dystrophy in his 40s, he was scuttled off to live with his 82-year-old mother.  As soon as he heard the news, he was done.  It was his free ticket to sit all day, watching television, while his mother did all the work. He did nothing – not one thing.

For four years she waited on him.  By the time my grandmother was 86, she needed help herself. So, we made room, and they came to live with my family and me.  Four adults and two children in a three-bedroom ranch. The roles were modified. Now, my grandmother and uncle both sat and watched television from morning to night. They did notPerception
participate in any family events. They did not want to do anything. They did nothing – not one thing. I did all the work. It was okay with me. I did it because it needed to be done. No expectations and no rewards.

So, what was my motivation?  My grandmother and uncle needed help. Neither one had ever been kind to me. It was a fact. I didn’t care. The relationships were determined the moment I was born. (Probably before I was born.)

What does this have to do with truth and perception?  My uncle was a skeptic.  He would tell me I had an ulterior motive. “What motive could I have?” I would ask. “You have nothing. Grandma has nothing.  I am taking care of you because you need a caregiver.”  He never answered the question. He refused to believe that I took them in because they needed help.  He would not (could not?) understand that their lack of grace towards me did not determine my actions towards them.  He could only see life as a reflection of himself.

Grandma’s point of view?  I don’t know.  She would tell me stories of her life. In all of them, she was the sad victim.  I would wipe her tears.  Unhappy and dissatisfied, she looked at life through a glass streaked and stained with misery.

Today, I live wiPerception_edited-2th myotonic dystrophy.  I do not sit all day watching television.  I write, read, and paint.  In addition, I visit people and invite people into my home.  I attend church, a writer’s group, and a painting class.  What do I see?  Hope and love.  Why?  Because my belief is based on a faith in God.

 

The Unfinished Portrait

Unfinished Portrait
For the last three months, I have been working on a portrait.  It is still in process; an unfinished, challenging, ongoing, all-encompassing activity.  In fact, it is a series of problem-solving steps.  Every brush stroke is a considered motion.  Ahead of that, there is the choice of hue, value, and type of brush for each stroke.

Yet, before I even contemplated the paint colors, I needed to have a vision of what I wanted to paint.  After some time spent looking through photographs (life model was not available), I made my decision.  Finally, I knew what I wanted to paint, who I wanted to paint, and what I wanted the painting to look like when I finished.

This brings me to today.  Just as with any creative process, there is labor.  Oil painting is something I love to do; nevertheless, there is frustration and aggravation.  When I am not painting, my mind often wanders back to the canvas.  In fact, I take several photos so that I can examine the current state of my painting.  What can I do better?  Where are the problems?  How can I improve the image?

I have probably wiped down and scraped off more paint than is currently on the canvas.  In fact, I am positive of it.  Some of what I rubbed off was good.  Indeed, one image was beautiful.  Nevertheless, it did not reflect my plan.  A portrait is more than capturing the likeness of the person; it is an attempt to capture the character of the individual.

We have all see portraits of dignitaries or famous people.  Have you ever noticed the tilt of the head, what they are holding in their hands, what type of clothing they are wearing?  All of it is designed to convey an important fact.  The intention of the artist and individual is for you to know an answer to a “who” question.  That big consuming question for so many of us.

All of this got me to thinking:  our lives are canvases.  We began life with an image already imprinted before any paint was applied.  Upon birth, our parents started to add the paint with their brushes.  They took a beautiful plan and added to it.  Some of what they applied was solid and worth keeping.  Much of it needed to be wiped off – maybe, it needed to be scraped off.

As you matured, you also began to add to your image.  Eventually, at some point, you took the brush out of the master’s hand.  Formulating a plan in your head, you changed the image.  You might even have painted something beautiful – probably not.  After awhile, your portrait started to have problems.  You started to ask yourself  What can I do better?  Where are the problems?  How can I improve?

At this point in your life, you might be struggling with a disability or some other difficulty. They are wayward strokes.  Unlike other times when you could wipe down or scrape off unwanted “paint,” these strokes are permanent changes.  It could be that the problems have helped you to focus on what needs to be changed.  Maybe, you are finding that your troubles are developing your character.  As we examine our lives, we are afforded the opportunity to stand back and unearth the original vision. The discovery process, the hard work and frustration, is answering the “who” question.

It may not be a neurotypical life; it may not be what you or I envisioned for our lives.  Nevertheless, the portrait is not to be trashed.  Your character will shine through.  There is still a beautiful portrait sitting there – unfinished.

 

C. S. Lewis — English Lit Geek

“What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.” ~ C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)

via C. S. Lewis — English Lit Geek

Found this quote on The English Lit Geek blog site.  C.S. Lewis’ words ring true today.  What do you see and hear?