<< Thwaaaaack. >> Cue the pain. Cue the tears. I never saw it coming…. My husband had just hit me square in the face with a huge snowball.
I love living in Colorado. It’s freakin’ gorgeous here – in the summer, in the fall, in the winter, in the spring. There have been very few days that I didn’t like being here. But the snow…. Okay, don’t get me wrong, we have 300+ days of sun here. When it does snow though, it snows. And nothing shuts down, it just keeps going as if nothing ever happened.
I grew up on the east coast where everything shuts down at even the slightest hint of snow. So the whole foot-of-snow-still-going-to-
Thirty minutes later, covered from head to toe in winter gear, we were out the door to shovel. Because of my hypermobility disorder, I have a hard time doing things like shoveling for a long period of time. Thankfully my husband knows this and is very supportive, so we take turns (i.e. he does most of the actual shoveling). On my second shoveling turn, I was hard at work. I was in the moment, focusing on not hurting my lower back, when all of a sudden I looked up and got hit right in the face with a huge snowball (don’t worry, he did apologize and he didn’t mean to hit me *right* in the face!).
This moment reminded me of the chronic pain story I’ve heard from so many women and that I’ve told myself. We are just moving through life, focused on what we are doing, when all of a sudden – BAM – we get smacked in the face with a life-changing diagnosis. When you get hit with a snowball, just like with a diagnosis, it’s initially hard to open your eyes and see. There were tears. There was pain. There was an uncertainty.
When I gathered my composure, I was mad. Just like when my chronic pain started, I was angry and I wanted retaliation. I wasn’t sure why that had happened. I tried forming my own snowballs, but they weren’t as good as the ones my husband was making. I was focused on the anger and the pain, and it kept me from thinking clearly.
I realized that the kind of gloves I was wearing were making it difficult to form snowballs. I was trying effortlessly to retaliate, but I didn’t even have the right tools. Just like in the journey of living with chronic pain, we can try the same thing over and over again, but if we don’t have the right mindset and the right tools, it gets us nowhere.
I was getting frustrated, so I went back to shoveling. I buried myself in my work and tried to forget the pain and the anger. I became even more frustrated because the snow was still falling, right where I had just finished shoveling. It felt like I took 2 steps forward and 1 step back.
I made the conscious choice to take a break. I stopped what I was doing and just stood there, looking up at the snow falling. A peaceful feeling washed over me, and in that moment I was grateful. I felt gratitude for the beauty that was all around me, beauty that I hadn’t noticed when I was angry and in pain.
I made the conscious choice to have fun and focus on what I COULD do. It was my husband’s turn with the shovel, so I focused on adapting my snowball making process. I made some small snowballs, and I threw them as hard as I could. A snowball fight ensued, ending in heaps of laughter. I forgot about the anger. I forgot about the pain. I forgot about the frustration. I laughed.
I did what I could to shovel what I could, and then I said “that’s good enough.” I knew the snow was still falling, so I just focused on getting to a point that was good enough for us to function. I gave a hat tip to Mother Nature for her impressive show of precipitation. And then I remembered that spring will come again.
I thought about what I had learned in middle school earth science – that winter is still a time of growth. There are all kinds of things happening below the surface that result in the beauty of spring and summer. We all love the sunshine and flowers of spring, but we forget to find the beauty and necessary growth in the seemingly cold, barren landscape winter.
The journey of living with a chronic illness is like the journey of the changing seasons. We experience times of sunshine with an overgrowth of flowers and birds chirping. We experience cold, dry periods with no end in sight. We experience the thunderous downpours that leave us soaking wet in anger and grief. But in nature, just like in your own journey, there are important things happening during each season.
There are lessons in each season, and we can learn them with an open mind.
There is growth in each season, and we can find it with a connected soul.
There is beauty in each season, and we can find it with a grateful heart.
So, if you’re shoveling snow right now with no end in sight, it’s okay lady. Stop, take a breather, and choose gratitude. Know that spring is coming, and this bitter cold is preparing your flowers to bloom in the warm sun. <3