Pain in Growth

Have you seen a clear solution to a problem, or worked very hard at something only for your ideas and efforts to be ignored? Perhaps you are in the middle of a situation now.

I’ve been a nurse for almost four decades. I know the feeling pretty well. At one job there was a turnover of two managers before I was hired, so that the people who both recommended me and hired me were gone. There was no set orientation process and I volunteered to help the new head of the unit to research best practices for a new process. I put in a lot of unpaid hours making phone calls, searching the internet and writing up a proposal. Not only did she ignore it, but a new hire of hers with far less experience and no degree became her “right hand man.” I have a kind demeanor yet I was treated very poorly. Because I wanted to help?

It still makes no sense to me, yet the hours were not in vain. I knew what the standards were and when we did not meet them and I was somehow marginalized–I knew it was not me. A friend of mine is going through a situation of her own and I can’t help but think that it is too easy to become bitter. If she does, the person who is affected most is she. So many things in life make no sense. My friend who has great experience and an altruistic desire to help goes unheard. Squelched. In situations like these, one could leave a job, but one could also continue to plug away, maintain dignity and focus on gratitude. Gratitude that they are making money at an awful time where others have lost jobs and businesses. Gratitude for health, or family. Gratitude that they are in a position to help others. Gratitude for faith.

Time has passed; that nurse manager left after a few years and the nurse she favored went on to another unit. They are both fine nurses and are helping people. I learned much from the experience and developed a thicker skin. Avoiding bitterness freed up my spirit to maintain a positive attitude for my patients and for my family. It wasn’t always easy and I wasn’t always perfect in the process, but the pain was not in vain. Through it we learn and grow.

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

Mother Teresa

Painful Hope

The masked 71-year-old checker at Walmart smiled. I could tell by her eyes, sparkling and attractive with years of happy lines. “Two hours to go!” she announced to me. I told her with a smile in-kind that I hoped it would go quickly. She chuckled and said, “Oh, no matter. I’m happy. I could stand here all day!” I gave her a look of awe and encouraged her to count her blessings. If I stand for more than 5 minutes my back hurts and my left leg and both feet go numb. “You’re too young for that!” she said with compassion. That’s how I found that she was more than a decade older than I.

Such is life with a chronic pain condition. It is genetic; my paternal grandmother’s hands rivaled the old witch handing Snow White the poison apple. Heberden nodes deform finger and toe joints in osteoarthritis. Grandma waddled and grunted when getting up from a chair, and I walk hunched over when it’s bad. Growing up as a pretty good athlete, hitting 500 in softball, taking on the toughest horses no one else wanted to ride, and running tough hills in races came easily for me. But now I’ve sold the horses, given up even the golf clubs and I’m relegated to feeling accomplished with a 0.5 to 1 mile walk in the mornings. Life throws some tough curve-balls.

People with chronic pain can relate. I write this not to whine or complain; rather, to offer support to those who suffer. There are many who have worse pain than I have. A few years ago I joined a Facebook group for people with arthritis. I was pretty blown away at the community and little sub-communities that existed for folk who typically become very isolated and who develop anxiety and other comorbidities (other concurrent medical problems). I saw a beautiful example of the good that can come from social media!

If you suffer from chronic pain or from any medical condition, do consider searching social media or your local community for support groups. When I worked on my master’s degree I researched chronic pain management centers. I found that studies showed decreased pain in those patients who felt connected to others. Some had good friends who maintained contact, some had a daily coffee at McDonalds, and some participated in book clubs, whether in person or online. I also learned that those who moved, even just a little each day, even just stretches in bed if bedridden, or the little walks I manage, reported decreases in pain, depression and anxiety. My octogenarian friend listens to her favorite music, meditates, or phones her friends when she needs distraction. She is still practicing as a therapist and continues to see clients. She advocates grief work with someone who understands pain.

There is hope. You are not alone, and I pray for you as I write this.