Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pray, Eat, Take Meds, Love

Well obviously, my title inspiration comes from the book, Eat, Pray, Love (Viking 2006) by Elizabeth Gilbert. I’ve only read segments of the book but enough to opine that the movie, in which Julia Roberts plays Elizabeth’s character, is not quite as good as the original story, but, stays fairly true to the authors’ journey.  A journalist, who’s found herself unhappy in her marriage, travels to Rome, India, and Indonesia, to do what many of us may only dream of; search for answers, spiritual healing, and peace in our lives -- while traveling to exotic places.

For me and the millions of women (and men) who are battling chronic health conditions, this is more fairytale than reality, since most of us don’t have the physical health, strength, or financial resources, to travel across the world to sort things out and make sense of our lives. The cost of ongoing diagnostic testing, ER visits, medications and treatments typically eat up any allowance for extensive travel expenditures. Physical limitations from chronic illness often make travel an ordeal for most of us and simply impossible for some.

So, how do those of us in the trenches fighting to gain ground with our health - while facing the divorce of our physical capabilities from our bodies, find our path to spiritual understanding and peace? We may not be able to travel to exotic locales, but we can look for a place in our home, in our church, an open neighborhood chapel, a museum, nearby park, or even the library during “off” hours. Any place where we can sit and be quiet with God will work. Here, we can breath in deeply (through our diaphragms) that Divine light and love, and then slowly, exhale, to release anxiety and tension. This creates a perfect opening for prayer which can then lead to that precious quieting of our minds to better receive understanding, or at least, a bit of peace in our unique, and at times, chaotic journeys.

I’ve learned through ten years in the fire of physical pain from several complex health conditions, that for me, the first step is always prayer. It doesn’t matter how you pray – whether casual petitions and thanks, or formal prayers we’ve learned from our religious beliefs. God knows all languages – even our sighs, cries, and unspoken thoughts. Prayer can be something as simple as Author, Anne LaMotte’s “Help me, help me, help me!” and, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” or as detailed as the 23rd Psalm (“Lord, you are my Sheppard, I shall not be in want…”). My prayer “staples” in the most troubling moments range from, “God is with me, Christ’s essence is upon me,” to, “Thank you God that things are as good as they are!” And in the worst of my "worst" moments, I mutter prayers like, "G-O-D...are you there?" Or, like a small child to her parent, "I need YOU!"

For those more challenging episodes in the midst of chronic illness, it’s necessary to develop our own individual “triage” (survival) plan. For me, and my care-giving husband, when a flare-up suddenly strikes, our first course of action is also to pray -- only right where we are at that very moment (no time for meandering to the park’s reflecting pond). We get quiet and ask for God’s loving essence, power, and clarity upon the situation. It is truly amazing how much better we both do when I’m in a critical place when we remember to pray first.

Then … I eat.  Usually not pasta or pizza as Gilbert did in the first phases of her journey in Italy, but something “clean” and easy on the digestive system like organic low-fat yogurt with organic fruit and rice cereal, or some black beans with a few tortilla chips (whenever possible we choose organic because it delivers more nutrients and less toxins to the body and FYI – there are some great organic pizzas and pasta right here in the U.S. ;-)!

This prepares my digestive tract for the next step; take meds.  I take whatever medications are necessary – conventional and/or natural remedies to address my symptoms.

Finally, I settle in to a relaxed position – lying on the bed propped up with pillows or reclining in a comfortable chair…and it is here, in this place and at this point, that I seek to experience “love.”  Obviously in these circumstances, I’m not referring to romantic physical love but soul love. If my husband, daughter, or a close friend is with me, their loving presence is a balm to my pain. I also think of other beloved people in my life who have shown me love and I give thanks and silently pray for blessings upon these earthly angels. I think of moments that have brought me the most joy in my journey here and let those thoughts of love flow through my body, and in most cases my condition begins to stabilize, Again, I give thanks. Then, after I’ve prayed, eaten, taken my meds, and loved, and I’m feeling better, I might read a book about someone whose life if very different than mine…yet somehow quite similar.
Cry Some. Laugh More. Pray Often – Jamey Lacy July