I’m pretty sure if you live with cpci it’s pretty impossible to get through the holidays of December without greater pain and exhaustion, unless we simply isolate ourselves from everyone during the celebrations. I like people, I love quite a few too — so that just isn’t an option for me.
One way I cope with this is to expect it. The pain isn’t less, nor the exhaustion–but emotionally it is easier to tolerate and mentally it helps me remember this is a special time, not every month is like this. It will pass. I will recover.
I do set boundaries, and I get some flack from folks who do not (or in some cases can not) understand. Young children, for example, just can’t understand these things — they love us, want our attention, and when we need our space to recuperate it may appear we don’t want to be around them. Nothing could be further from the truth, of course.
Frankly, I only know one way to deal with these things, “tender honesty”. It took me some practice, and I still don’t always get it right. There is all kinds of pressure that can mess up the timing, especially with everyone wanting our attention and affections, but for me it seems to work very well when I get the timing right.
Tender honesty involves simply explaining what my need is at the moment. It’s best to do it when it is time for me to rest, not an hour beyond that point, when my pain has reached an excruciating level–at that point my ability to be tender has all but vanished.
It takes me discipline to let people know my needs when they arise and not when I am at the point of distress. I don’t want to be a “party-pooper”; the one who doesn’t participate — and no one else wants me to be that person either.
So inside I want to push myself a little further, and then a little further still. Sometimes my first efforts to excuse myself are wimpy ones. “Excuse me,” just doesn’t work. It invites questions. “Oh, where are you going?” or, “What are you going to do?” or even, “We’re going to play cards soon, you don’t want to miss that, do you?” Just insert the question your family or friends are most likely to ask.
Tender honesty says something different; something specific. It includes my needs and my love. “I’m going to go rest my back so I can join everyone for dinner,” or, “I’ve really enjoyed chatting with everyone, but I’d like to rest my back a bit and rejoin you all a bit later.” Notice I’m not just resting. I’m resting the part of my body that is causing pain at that moment, the part of my body that needs rest. I find anything less leaves me open to objections–but no one seems to question when I add the part of my body that needs to rest. In addition, it makes it about my body, and not me. I’m not leaving, my body is. I just have to go with it.
It’s tender because it reminds them I care about them, I want to be with them, and I am taking this action so that I can spend as much time with them as possible. In addition, the tone is loving, not complaining. I say it with a smile (at least if I haven’t delayed it too long). Finally, there’s no drama. The message is simple, ‘I love you, I’m going to care for my body, so I can spend more time with you.’ It’s a beautiful, loving message.
In days of old, my anti-“party pooper” stance has landed me at the ER having no holiday dinner, family time or celebration whatsoever. It went from that to, “I’m going to rest a bit,” and if there was any argument I would reply abruptly with some guilt laden remark like “I don’t really want to land in the ER again, I’m sorry!” Drama is great during the holidays, isn’t it??? (grins)
So “tender honesty” is honest and expresses how much we care about the ones we love. It avoids the whole ‘party-pooper’ scenario.
Sometimes it generates some sympathy (one of my least favorite emotions). I have overheard behind-the-back sympathy as I rest my body in a nearby room. Folks discussion how sad my situation is.
Frankly, it’s not that sad day-to-day, but it does require I take care and don’t overwork my body.
‘Sympathizers’ will sympathize over anything. They tend to ‘sympathize’ no matter what I say. It’s like an addiction of sorts. Sometimes, since it is so visually clear I am in pain and disabled (I wear several braces and have a cane and rollator), I think ‘sympathizers’ are just waiting for me to leave the room so they can tell someone how much they sympathize over my situation (giggles). Anyone who knows me, knows I don’t want to hear it, so they wait until I’m gone so they can tell someone who, even if they don’t agree or care, will at least listen.
I know who most of the sympathizers are in my life. These are pretty sad folks. In some ways, my situation makes them feel better about their lives. It would be far healthier if they just felt good about their life. If the only way to feel better about your life is to compare it to mine, well…erm..that’s just sad.
So, sometimes as I’m resting, I just engage in a practice of compassion for them. I close my eyes and envision how sad they are feeling. As I focus on my breathing, in and out, I begin to envision me sending light to them, from me laying in the bed to them wherever they are in the house. When the light arrives, it becomes a light rosy pink and embraces them warmly. It gives them a comforting hug. Then I envision them feeling good, smiling and feeling a sense of peace with who they are, with life, and with those around them.
I have no idea what this mental practice does for them, but it sure makes me feel better about the whole thing. Sympathizers seem like they could use a hug and re-assurance that they are okay, just as they are, right where they are, doing just what they’re doing. Just like me.
No matter what anyone thinks, I am fine. I am just another human being on this planet doing the best I can to grapple with life on life’s terms. Sometimes it’s exhilarating, sometimes it’s exhausting — but it’s worth it. Everything passes and seemingly comes around again. The holidays will pass and come again next year. ‘Til then, I’ll keep practicing my ‘tender honesty’ and my compassion for sympathizers — so next year they might just go a wee bit smoother. (grins)