dahlia in my garden: Rio Fuego in Coleus leaves

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Planning for Plants... and Life in General

Today is my annual “Go-to-the-Local-Nursery-And-Spend-My-Birthday-Money” Trip. It’s finally time to buy colorful flowers and plants to fill up all my pots. I *love* going to nurseries and wandering through the rows. Only one problem: I get so distracted by the plants that I forget to pay attention to my body and my pain level. It’s a problem I have a lot, and I imagine I’m not the only one who does. When I get overly focused on doing things I like, I completely block out my perception of my pain. This can be a useful way to distract myself during a pain spike, but when I’m trying to avoid causing one - I find it hard!

Knowing that I am likely to fall into this trap, I have to plan carefully. The day before my nursery trip, I will look at my pots and decide what plants I want to buy to fill for those that didn’t survive the winter and I’ll make a list. Today when we get there, since the terrain will prevent me from using my wheelchair, I will ask my husband to set the timer on his watch for 20 minutes. When it goes off, I will know it’s time to pause, sit for five minutes, and have some water. If I honor my body by pacing wisely then I will be able to truly relish my time there and not end up collapsing in pain into the car and spending the rest of the day feeling miserable. 

In my garden last year: a bloom on a tiny cactus.

Planning isn’t just something I do when I go shopping at the nursery. If you live with pain or a chronic illness, you know how hard it is to be spontaneous. The hardest part of it is getting friends and family to understand. Of course I would love to have lunch with you and see a movie - but I just can’t physically do both and still enjoy myself. Frankly, I’m not much fun to be with when I’m trapped in a severe pain spike. Planning is just as important in this situation as when going to the nursery. I would offer to my friend that we see the movie *or* do lunch, but not both. Even so, I can’t predict what my pain will be like at any given time. Loved ones have to learn to accept that when I cancel plans at the last minute, it’s not any reflection on how I feel about them. One way you can educate your friends and family is to have them read The Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino. I’ve never read a more perfect piece for describing to those who are well what it is like to live with pain/illness. I always have this wonderful essay as the first link under my Recommended Websites at the right side of my blog. I know that I recommend it a lot, but it really is fantastic. (thank you, Christine!)

It’s not easy to live day to day with chronic pain/illness, especially when it is invisible to others. All we can do is try to balance it out, carefully weighing our limits against our wishes, and live each day to the fullest.

Now if you’ll excuse me... I’m off to buy my greatly-anticipated spring plants.  ; >

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