Friday, September 11, 2009

The Ripple Effect

Life, lately, has me thinking about the ripple effect – how you can throw one little rock in a great big pond and the ripples seem to go on forever.

That happens with all of us, every minute of the day, whether we’re paying attention or not. It’s like when I wrote about living life with intention… a simple smile to a stranger rather than ignoring people as we rush to our next appointment can not only affect their mood, but the mood of each person they meet that day. Stopping and looking someone in the eye and letting them know they are the most important thing in that moment can not only have an effect that day, it can ripple into establishing that person’s self-confidence and self-worth for years to come.

Ripples are everywhere. If we’re paying attention we can intentionally improve someone’s outlook, and if we’re not paying attention we can unintentionally tear down someone’s self-worth.

But there are also times when Life throws a rock in our pond, and ripples move beyond our control. That’s been my existence these past few months. I, for the life of me, have no way of stopping the tidal waves that have been building from that one small rock – that one decision to leave the house to go to a doctor appointment.                     

That action continues to send ripples, and I think it’s what makes updating you guys so difficult sometimes. Because it truly is one thing after another, it feels like I’m always complaining about something new. Either that or it sounds like I am the unluckiest, most jinxed person on the planet – but that’s not true either. The truth is, with chronic illness, life is one big ripple effect.

I went outside and reacted to the air. That messed up my lungs and caused me to go on steroids. The steroids caused me to develop Cushing’s Syndrome. This, along with about a million other side effects, made reducing the steroids an intensely painful process, leaving me exhausted, medicated and immobile. Being immobile has increased my joint stiffness and caused muscle fatigue. As the steroids go lower in my system, the pain from the Spondylitis has increased as the inflammation in my body increases. That increased pain in my spine and neck has caused migraines. The exhaustion and general havoc wreaked on my immune system has left me susceptible to illness, which is what I’ve been left with this week. Sore throat, ear infection, cough… that voice I was getting used to hearing is all but a whisper again. And that means more medications, which messes with my stomach, which…Oh, you get the point.

But such is life with a disease. One decision made at the beginning of June is still causing new problems in the middle of September. And that above paragraph only covers about half of it. But I also know that, sooner or later, those ripples fade away as they reach the shoreline. One ripple at a time, they eventually dissipate into nothingness and cease to exist.

The pond is the big picture, and it can be overwhelming to take it all in. But I find that looking at each individual ripple, each individual setback as it’s own entity, helps me to stay focused. It allows me to look at big problems and see them as many small hurdles. And it also allows me to find what may look like small accomplishments in the grand scheme of things, and turn them into things to celebrate.

Kind of like now. I have many small hurdles… I am sick, fighting headaches, managing pain… but I’m also celebrating because while it seemed like an insurmountable task a few months ago, I am finally going to be completely weaned off of these steroids on Sunday!

Will that mean that next week will seem any different than last week? Probably not… but it’s one ripple that is now dissipated into the shore. It’s one change that will have it’s own yet-to-be-seen ripple effect as well, and they will hopefully be ripples that will set things on a better course.

And that is something to look forward to.

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