I admit it. I’m in Hawaii-AGAIN. Knowing that, you might reread the title and think, “Sure, while she’s in HAWAII, of course she would feel like SINGING!” But those of you who know chronic pain; or are experiencing the pangs of grief or are living with the frustration of a severe disability or physical condition know that you can’t take a vacation from these kinds of conditions. No matter how beautiful the place or how well you plan or what clever things you pack in your suitcase- these pains come along with you. But, hmmm… can you still sing?
I want to sing, even though these things are certain to come along with me everywhere I go now…Spinal cord injury, inability to walk, intense nerve pain and the grief of losing many favorite activities all invite themselves on my vacations. I was severely injured by a drunk driver in Hawaii 10 years ago and now face the contrast of enjoying the Big Island able bodied versus now with chronic pain and paralysis while in a wheelchair. My husband and I still come here almost every year. We even drive past the little rock monument on the highway where my life was changed forever- sometimes we tense up, sometimes we cry and just yesterday for the first time I forgot it was coming till we were right next to it. (every time it gets easier).
Every time I see a beach here I ache in varying degrees for the freedom to walk on the lava rock shores and step barefoot into the splashing waves or just hop out of the car and go sit on my towel in the sand. We have found a new way but it’s a very complicated process now and it takes a lot of work and planning. We do it and I enjoy it and am grateful for what we can do, but its difficult. Then there’s the physical pain. Some friends think its ironic-a bad joke even, that the same injured spinal cord that keeps me from normal feeling and movement in my lower body also produces unpredictable, intense burning pain. Things can get kinda crazy in this life.
But can I still sing through it? That’s a right-brained way I measure my mood when I can’t put it into words. I’ve noticed that if I’m singing or humming a little tune in the background of my mind I’m coping well. Can I experience the physical pain or notice the grief of loss and not deny it, but focus in on the joy of being alive and loving and being loved? Lately I’ve been making up a song about this…
I can sing when I’m suffering
I can stand when my knees are weak
I can dance when I’m facing defeat
Because My God…
I have faith when I cannot see
I can love though I’m still in need
I am strong though I could feel empty
Because My God…
This morning (in this vacation condo in this beautiful paradise of Hawaii with my loving guy) I was exhausted from trying to get comfortable all night. I would sleep in one position until I couldn’t stand it and could wake up enough to sit up and reposition myself, then try the next position, etc. Six hours and many positions later I woke up in a potentially bad mood. Instead of having the energy to go swim or kayak in the ocean or even sit on the beach today, I needed to rest some more and we relaxed and watched tv together. That might ordinarily depress me, but I decided I could smile at my husband and enjoy just being together and I did. I think my song helped.
God gives me hope and a future and has really blessed me with this fun and loving man too. What did I do to enjoy my vacation today? We got up and went and had great Kona coffee right near the ocean. I rested, I wrote to my friend, I watched a documentary and ate a good lunch and a little candy. Then I ventured out to the pool with my laptop and started writing again. After several months of not feeling like writing because I was depressed from pain, I felt like I had something to share. Yay!
After being so seriously focused on my writing I heard my husband’s ukulele playing as he sat right next to me…
Then a few minutes later he handed me his iPad with photos to scroll through. “Which one should I post on Facebook?” he asked.
I definitely need to laugh while I’m going through challenges too! (Recently I took a nine hour class on current chronic pain relief management research and LAUGHTER was actually one of the research-based effective treatments!) Its so much easier to sing when someone is else is singing and playing along.
I wish you smiles, songs and laughter today, no matter what you’re going through.