Routine may keep us safe in a life with chronic pain
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Last week, we shared some thoughts about memory loss, which caused me to remember some of my less than brilliant moments in the last few years which I guess we could call “doozies from Suzy.” Doozies, indeed they were. I've had numerous occurrences when I've lost my car, paid the wrong bill, etc., but two years ago I came very close to burning down our house. I'd like to share this hideous tale about my own forgetfulness because it does tie in to the whole area of routine, patterns and habits as we live this somewhat bent life of ours. I am convinced I need to have some discipline and planning in my life because if I didn't, I would be “flying” without a safety net.
As most of us have discovered, this pain-filled existence is very distracting, exhausting and frustrating. Chronic pain takes all of our energy and definitely takes the brain to another place as we strive not to think about it; coping, struggling, living. There's a fogginess that can distract the mind from the moment, the now and that which is safe.
One night, about two years ago, around 9:30 p.m., we heard a knock on the door. I was already in bed watching TV when my husband hollered up the stairs, “Sue, come down here.” I was less than pleased and very grouchy about the whole thing. As it turned out, the visitors at the door were young friends we had not seen in several years. They were and are friends of our son who often hung out at our house while they were growing up. It was wonderful to see them and their two kids. They were staying at a hotel and I told them we would go out for breakfast the next morning, but not too early. I called our daughter, who I knew would want to see them and have them meet her little ones and husband, and they were to pick me up for breakfast.
When the next morning rolled around, I realized it was my day to make dog food, which I do once a month. The dogs were down to an empty freezer. When I was getting ready that morning, I put a Dutch oven full of boneless chicken thighs and water on the burner. I was running late because I'm not all that coordinated in the mornings before my medications kick in. I grabbed my jacket and popped the burner down to simmer, I thought. We had a very enjoyable breakfast, while catching up with these old friends. Our friends wanted to see our daughter's interesting old home so we went over there for awhile. About an hour after arriving there, I got a phone call from my hubby. He said, “You might want to come home. I got a call from the neighbors (while he was at work) that firemen are all over the house.”
Immediately, I knew…the chicken thighs. I also had a flash of memory that instead of turning the burner to simmer I had turned it all the way up. My son-in-law gave me a ride because my car was sitting in front of our house. It seems the neighbors, hearing the smoke alarms, became worried that I was inside, as well as our two little dogs. They broke a panel out of the front door and took the grateful, smoky dogs out to the back yard. My son-in-law could see how “shook up” I was and I told him I felt like an idiot and I just prayed that my dogs were okay. He's a very wise fellow and said, “Don't beat up on yourself. You just got thrown off of your routine this morning.” He was right.
The house reeked of burnt chicken, which is a great deal like burnt feathers and not at all pleasant. The glass stove top was cracked, the Dutch oven was standing out front and all the windows were open. The firemen had placed large fans in all the doorways. My husband had a plane trip planned for the next morning to fly down to check on his Mom in California. That night we were barely able to breathe so all the windows remained open and the fans stayed on high. To add insult to my poor injured house, it snowed the next night as I huddled under a blanket. Those of you with Sjogren's Syndrome can imagine how much all of that smoke and odor burned my eyes and nose, but I was too stubborn to leave the house and couldn't thrust my little pets on anyone else.
After hearing this, I hope you feel better about any foolish action you have performed. For me, it pays to take my pills at the same general time each day, make myself do those ghastly stretches, etc. Chaos is the last thing I need with limited energy, pain and a muddled mind. My body is chaotic enough along with some help from my poor beleaguered brain. I hate that word “routine,” but must admit it's a must for some of us. Routine, patterns of behavior as well as healthy habits just might save your life and mine.
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