White Knuckle Smiling

Attitude of Gratitude
Here it is, the second week of March. Spring is nowhere to be seen and snow stubbornly covers the ground as it has since the beginning of this frigid white and gray year. My bones are aching to be thawed from the confines of this long winter deep freeze. I was not built to endure the tribulations of windblown Midwest winters.  Every winter season is an exercise in pain, patience and endurance.

I am waiting with white knuckles now for any glimpse of spring. Please come. Please, God, bring warmth and sun to heal these frozen muscles and bones.

How do people keep smiling when they endure chronic daily pain? Fibromyalgia and a high school permanent back injury, which brought on arthritis, are the chronic ailments that I have to deal with. Both of them aggravated by cold weather. Yet, I know that I am much better off than many others who deal with much worse pain then mine. So I close my lips and look for the gratitude in my day. And the Advil.

My mother has owned a beauty shop in a small town for the last thirty years. I have known some of these clients for all of those thirty years and many for decades. I have watched them go from raising their kids to their senior years. I saw elderly folks go from their last years to the beyond. I watched teens and twenties become parents, business owners and mid-life crises survivors. One observation stands out. Happy, energetic, positive-attitude people do better. It doesn’t mean they are in less pain or are healthier. They just have a better life anyway.

They get up, get dressed to the best of their ability and are grateful to be around. They are interested in other people and what they are doing and are not focused on their own pain and suffering. They are too busy talking about all the other things going on in their lives to focus on themselves. People enjoy being around them, therefore; they have friends and family and interesting lives to talk about and care about. People and caretakers are more willing to offer assistance and help and sometimes even comment that it is a privilege to help the positive-attitude person because it is an up-lifting and rewarding experience.

Negative people, self-absorbed with their own suffering and pain are less enjoyable to be around, therefore; only the noblest and bravest souls survive hanging around them, or other miserable, guilt-ridden people like themselves. They end up with limited social options, opportunities, friends and even family members willing to help out. It has been very sad to watch these people get older and more alone as their advancing days closed in on them. More often than not, the end of their story was a very lonely tragic experience.

Happy chronic pain sufferers seem to have just accepted daily pain as part of their being and have moved on. They don’t focus on the unfairness of it. They don’t ask “Why me?” They find ways to work around it. They don’t spend their lives grieving for what they can’t do; they celebrate what they can do. They look for ways to be of service or help to others and be a part of their communities.

I have met so many of these people and they are very inspiring to me. They are the reason I have learned how to deal with the white knuckle days of back pain and muscle pain when it gets to be too much. I take a pain reliever, do some slow stretching and then get going on thinking about something and/or someone else. The world is a big place. There is much to be done. As long as I can keep on going and be grateful for all there is to do and be grateful that I CAN do it, I know I’ll be OK.

I want the warm weather. I’m told it will be here any day now if I can just hang in there. But while I’m waiting, I’m going to put on a happy smile, remember all the things I have to be grateful for, think about all the wonderful things I am looking forward to, and get as much done as possible so that when the warm weather comes, I will be able to go out and play.