Human nature is a tough thing to fight against, and yet it must be done. There is a constant struggle to be grateful for “what is”, instead of longing for “what is not”. The challenge is not limited to those who battle illness, it is prevalent among all people. But the battle may be more intense for those who live with the necessary adjustments of continued physical decline, because “what is not” continues to increase. The drive and motivation that pushes us to achieve and excel, must often be harnessed to live happily within a realistic range of success. None of us can control everything within and around us, so we must choose to focus our energy on reasonable goals worth achieving. And we must learn to be content – a state which is sometimes elusive.
In addition to our inner battle against self-pity, we must also battle the pity of others. Sometimes I can see pity in the eyes of those who look at me and it tempts me to look at myself in the same way. I do miss being able to do so many things and do things as well as I once did. But dealing with grief is just part of my daily routine and does not increase or decrease as a result of others’ pity toward me. People around us seem to fall into three categories: (1) those who choose not to see us at all, (2) those who choose to see us as less than we are and (2) those who choose to get to know us and see our value even when it’s disguised. Facial expressions and/or words can quickly identify which category others belong in. If you are among the able-bodied, which category do you choose to be in? It’s usually easy to ignore the first two groups. But we are not safe from pity within the third group. Those who know us and even care about us can be tempted to wrap us in a protective bubble that prevents real relationships from forming or deepening.
People have said they hesitate to voice their problems to me because they feel their problems pale in comparson to what I deal with. Some believe it is an insult to complain about a physical ailment that does not match the level or severity of mine. I have not entered a competition for “most pathetic”. When others avoid real and honest conversation, they are not protecting me from heartache as they think they are; but they are creating heartache by leaving me in a vacuum void of real conversation and deep relationships. One of the few things that I am still able to do for others is listen. Although I strive to be a good listener, I cannot listen if others are not willing to talk. I’d also like to know how I can pray for others, because my situation allows me more time than most have for prayer.
Listening to others share their happiness, excitement and daily lives is a welcome distraction. I’m eager to be happy for you. Hearing others vent about life’s challenges and frustrations reminds me that life isn’t easy for anyone and offers me an opportunity to be a caring friend. Everyone has challenges in their lives and everything is relative. In my eyes, your ability to walk does not lessen the challenges you deal with.
I deal with a loss of productivity and search for ways to do worthwhile things. Relationships are important…no, necessary. Everyone needs to vent from time to time. Sometimes, just voicing problems helps us recognize solutions. Counseling and therapy are expensive. I am available…and free. There is an endless list of things I cannot do, but my ears still work and listening is among the things I can do and want to do.
If you need an ear, please talk to me. Friends share the good, the bad and the ugly in life. A Swedish Proverb says “Friendship doubles our joy and divides our grief”. James Dobson says “This is one of the powerful paradoxes of the Christian life: When we share someone else’s pain, we often shed some of our own. When we help others, we end up helping ourselves. When we lift another’s burdens, ours lighten.” I have plenty of time – stop and share it with me. I can offer you comfort and confidentiality. Let me be a safe place for you – it helps me feel valued and respected, gifts I readily accept and treasure.