Sunday, November 1, 2015

Celebrating Lessons Learned

By Linda Grupp Boutin

10-30-15—Getting Ahead in NaNoWriMo 2015

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27

     I went to see Dr. Holland on Tuesday and she provided me with much to think about as my week progressed. She said I am a survivor. Also noted, she predicted that I would live another 20 years. When I asked why she thought such a thing, especially since she was checking how I was doing after a 2-week hospital stay, she said because she had seen me for the last 20 years. Given my many digestive and kidney crises over those years, it seemed a strange prognostication to me. However, given the checkered pattern of my health since my early 20s, she does have a basis for saying I am a survivor.

     She also mentioned that she would like to see me write a book because there are so many things I had to have learned over the course of the last 40 years. She is correct about me learning some important lessons through trials, but sometimes I am afraid to share them with others. Today I am setting aside those fears and trusting my readers.

     First and most importantly, I have learned that we are not in control. No matter how hard we plan out our lives, set goals, follow rules or flaunt them, God is in control. I have tried to hang onto the reins of my life, all for naught. When God says, “You will survive," you do survive. And when God says, “I am taking you home,” you go and join Him in the hereafter. We may try to intervene, but unless we commit suicide, He is in control.

Celebrating a God-created collaboration

     Another hard-won lesson is that positive thinking takes us very much further and in a happier, more contented way, than negative thinking. In my experience, there is nothing more poisonous to a human psyche than bitterness. Jesus gave us a couple of rules that apply here. Love God. Love others as yourself. I add: Treat others as you want to be treated. Life is not fair, nobody ever promised that life would be fair. So stop whining, put a smile on your face, even when you don’t want to, and keep on keeping on. Stay busy and you will feel your pain less. Give thanks for the smallest of blessings and when the big ones come along, give thanks some more.

     Recently I lost a beloved pet, our dog Kindu. I promise my dogs on the day that they enter my life, that I will never let them suffer. And the hardest thing for me to do is follow through on that promise. It means when life becomes too difficult and painful for my pet, I must make the hard decision to inflict pain on myself by letting them go to their rest. Kindu was much tougher of a decision because nothing was ever too clear-cut for him. So my husband and I worked together for 9 months to fight for the life of our “boy.” The empathy I felt for him overwhelmed me because his disease was digestive, like mine. When he couldn’t eat or drink for 2 days, when he continued to lose weight despite our best efforts, the decision was made for us. Time for the boy to rest. We have cried together over and over for his loss, but that is another lesson, pain is part of life. 

The day we brought Kindu home

     I once read a book by a doctor who treated people with leprosy. This disease robs the person of their sensation of pain. While helping people in poverty-stricken countries, he observed his patients loss of the sensation of pain could no longer protect their injured limbs and appendages. Because of their loss of sensation, they lost fingers, toes and even limbs to injuries. Anyone who suffers from neuropathy knows the problem, pain is necessary to successfully navigate in our world. This doctor even named his book “The Gift of Pain.” Something they do not tell you about in our fairy-tale culture.

     There is a natural cycle to life. Our bodies try to strive towards wellness up until our final breath. Someone I know decided it was their time for death. However God did not agree. They survived their crisis and came to enjoy life again. The will to live is often stronger than we anticipate. If anyone had told me at 20 all that I would need to endure to live, I would have scoffed. But as I said earlier, we are not in control. Had I been born in an earlier time or a different country, the outcome may have been different. But my health has been supported in the United States with our current technology against all the odds. Much to the happiness of my friends and loved ones.

     Another lesson I have learned is to listen first and listen well. This is not to say that I always manage this, but I do try. Especially when talking to doctors because sometimes the news they must give is particularly painful. I have had the joy of working with a small number of doctors over a lifetime. I have also had the good luck of many superior doctors working on my case. I thank the Lord for guiding me to healing hearts and hands that have been so concerned about my life.

     One of the tactics I have learned over the years is to take my anger out on the disease. When I studied taekwondo, punching the air repeatedly was a daily exercise. I would get bored with the repetitions until I began envisioning my punches defeating the digestive disease I endured. This made my workout more fun and seemed to mobilize my immune system at the same time. Another time I decided to take up roller-blading after a long hospitalization. This year I have decided to take up the NaNoWriMo challenge of writing 1500 words per day in November. Tonight I have been warming up while writing this. Almost 1000 words today so far.

     In previous years when I have taken up this challenge I have failed miserably. Sporadic writing days, stretching to reach the magical 1500 words, kind of like today! And yet, having failed I also love to go back and read what I wrote. It gives me such insight into what was on my mind in those years. In retrospect, although I could not finish the challenge, I am happy I made the effort to try. This year I can do better than previous tries. A special challenge to myself! From a caring doctor who believes that I can!

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