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Sunday, May 15, 2016

Agony and Torture

These are the nicknames my nephews dreamed up for two kids their mother babysat when they were young. She ran a day care of sorts out of her home, which enabled her to earn a pay check while raising her own children.

The boys called the little ones "Agony and Torture" because they whined and argued and disrupted, which is pretty much the definition of preschoolers. Had my nephews possessed a bit more higher order thinking, they might have applied these same labels to themselves, as they were only slightly farther along the maturity continuum than were their mother's charges. Ah, but it's always easier to point the finger at someone else.

Which is what I'm tempted to do lately. I've been feeling a lot of angst over issues I can't control, and as a result, I'm butting into other people's business. I admit it - I'm a control freak, right up there with the title character of the old comic strip, Momma, and it frustrates me when things don't go as planned. That's created a bit of a problem over the past few weeks, as many things, personal and physical, have cropped up to rock my equilibrium.

Literally, as a matter of fact. One of the issues I'm referring to is a nasty case of arthritis and its cousin, bursitis, both of which are making me feel like a little old lady who only drives on Sundays. Several doctor visits and X-rays later, with painkillers on board and physical therapy looming on the horizon, I'm still treading carefully but much improved.

My body, that is.

My head could still use the mental equivalent of chicken soup and Rolaids.

I'm learning something very unpleasant about myself through all this. I'm a vain person.

I always knew I was a little vain. I carefully construct my hair and face in the morning (it takes more time than it used to, and seems to bring fewer results). I choose outfits that enhance what Mom used to call my "blonde coloring" (the blonde has long since given way to Preference by L'Oreal, "because I'm worth it," but the grays keep finding their way through the highlights). I make all this effort in hopes that it will keep acquaintances from noticing my lower body's resemblance to a pear. 

But these strategies fall apart when one's limping forces one to wear sneakers and sensible shoes with formal outfits, thus making one look like the aforementioned Sunday driver.

I was in just enough pain at the pharmacy, when picking up my medicinal Godsend, that I was pricing canes. They have some very pretty ones, and reasonable, too. Except I don't think I could afford the price it would exact on my psyche. Besides, I have a perfectly good "plain Jane" cane that my father used in the last days of his life. I can picture myself now, hobbling along the halls of  the school where I work, clinging for dear life to that silver stick, and praying no seventh grade track hopeful disrupts my gimpy gait.

I'm not feeling it.

I sought solace from my friend, Tina, who has been dealing with similar issues for years. In contrast to my prideful preening, Tina is eminently pragmatic and willingly tossed aside sandals for Oxfords long ago. She also thought nothing of clutching a four-footed cane for a couple of months when her legs were misbehaving.

How does she do it?

I mentioned earlier some personal matters which also have me on my knees (well, they would if I could get down on my knees, but at this point that's just a nice memory). Again, things I didn't ask for and could just as soon do without, thank you very much. Funny thing is, God never asks my permission when He sends trials. He doesn't give me a checklist or a drop down box, either. He sends or allows what He deems right for my character building, and I have very little to say about it.

The phrase that keeps coming to mind is, things may get worse before they get better. I'm not expecting joy and sunshine as the PT teaches my muscles how to, well, muscle through. Neither am I looking forward to an earlier wake up time to fit in exercises I don't want to do (did I mention I don't want to wake up early in the first place?). And fear grips my heart when I think of the unknowns I'm facing, issues I'll leave unspoken for the purposes of blogging, but trust me, they're there. 

So I'm back to counting blessings. I make gratitude lists on scraps of paper when my head starts taking me into dark, dangerous neighborhoods where I ought not go alone. I catch myself riding my one son who still lives at home, and to some extent the one who's off on his own, trying to control what I can instead of accepting things I can't change. I pack up bags of stuff for Purple Heart in an attempt to de-clutter my environment, when what I really want to do is de-clutter my mind. 

It occurs to me that perhaps the old devil, that wily serpent, could be trying to distract me with messes just when I'm on the brink of finishing my novel. In all honesty, he's done a pretty fair job of discouraging me in the midst of what should be a happy and exciting time. Tomorrow I'll be publicly reading a short story I had published in a women's anthology in March. Family and friends are coming to cheer me on, and I have so much to be hopeful about and grateful for. Yet, what I call the "Eeyore Syndrome," AKA, the "Puddleglum Doldrums" --that "Things may be great, but they're not as great as they could be" feeling -- has me in its grip. With the apostle Paul, I lament, "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" He instantly answers his own question: "I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:24)

If God could use Paul, despite his former life as a bigot and murderer, I guess he can use me, too.

"In EVERYTHING give THANKS, for this is the will of God 
in Christ Jesus concerning you!" 
1 Thessalonians 5:18

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with THANKSGIVING let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7

For more like this, check out:

Reflections by Thea: Counting Blessings and Misusing Prepositions

Reflections by Thea: "Yeah, But..."