Gardens have a way of teaching patience. It doesn’t matter where they are located, their size, or what you are growing. They are still a lesson in that virtue. My granny was a very gifted gardener. I’ve seen her grow lush plants, bushes and trees from frail cuttings. Even now, when I reflect upon her gardening skills, I am amazed. She made it look so easy. Our lives are gardens, too; remember? Chronic illness, in any form, has the same uncanny ability to teach patience. It’s a lesson that is often learned the hard way. And the waiting, for lack of a better description, can feel hellish.
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” — Romans 12:12 NIV
If you have a Chronic illness, or you know someone who does, then you recognize this garden’s path all too well. You have followed it, with scared and sometimes reluctant steps. The waiting seems to never end. From the initial diagnosis, through the necessary tests, the difficult symptoms and devilish setbacks … you are constantly waiting … for results … for less pain … for more energy … waiting for doctors … for medications … for more mobility … for a good day … maybe, a good week … and waiting … and waiting. Living with a Chronic illness demands tenacity and optimism. But, above all, it requires an abundance of patience — with your body, your illness and the world around you. It isn’t easy. I know. But it is feasible.
For the most part, many people misunderstand patience. When you exercise patience, you aren’t giving up. Nor does it imply that you don’t care. We’re talking about your health, or that of a loved one. Of course, you care. Patience is a quiet power that nourishes the mind, body and soul. It has the ability to make you stronger — healthier. Now, for a moment, consider the alternative.
When you try to juggle life and a Chronic illness without patience, you become frustrated. Angry. This hurts you and those around you. It hampers your abilities. As life begins to spiral out of control, you are overwhelmed. Then, anxiety joins the mix. In some cases, depression follows. You don’t need more health problems. Yet, that’s what you have. Your health, physically and emotionally, has become even more fragile than it was before.
By using patience, you have an advantage. Patience allows you to manage stress more effectively. You are happier — more at peace with yourself and your life. It provides better mental health. It strengthens and nourishes your relationships, too. And your support system is a very priceless thing. Patience allows you to achieve your goals, no matter how long it may take. It enables you to overcome the inevitable setbacks. You are living — even thriving — under difficult circumstances. How? Because patience has increased your coping skills. And that is an important part of managing any Chronic disease.
Granted, not all of us are patient by nature. But there are things that you can do to cultivate patience:
- When life isn’t going as planned, i.e. a flare in your disease, don’t blame yourself or others. Don’t allow negative emotions to take root. Stay calm. Keep your perspective, i.e. setbacks happen even when you do everything your doctor has advised. Chronic diseases often evolve and change happens.
- To reduce your pain, do not allow your thoughts to magnify the situation. Does it hurt? Yes. But remind yourself that uncomfortable pain doesn’t equate to unbearable pain. Acknowledge the difference. You can and will get through this.
- Listen to your body. Don’t allow pain, swelling, or whatever symptom, to prevail. Don’t ignore the obvious. You know what is the norm with your body and your disease. When things are worsening, call your doctor and address it.
- Never underestimate a self pep-talk. This is no pity-party. Think about what you are dealing with, your options, your feelings, etc. Acknowledge your victories — even the small ones. Embrace what you can do. You might even bounce a few ideas, off of someone in your support system. You will feel better. Then, catch your breath. Focus on your goal.
Every garden has its trials and triumphs. Yet, despite the obstacles, life blooms. It may take a little longer than we expected. The waiting is inconvenient, at the least. But it’s part of the journey. Life continues — yours and mine. Each day, even the difficult ones, are a blessing. So, thank God for them. Cherish their beauty. Grow in your wisdom. And sow more patience.
* Photo by Finn Hackshaw for Unsplash