Words are powerful. What you say, and how you say it, have lingering effects. And I’m not just talking about words spoken to someone else. Also included in this list are the words we speak out loud to ourselves (I’m not the only one who talks to herself, am I?) and the words we think to ourselves.
We know this.
But sometimes, something happens that serves as a flashing-light reminder of just how true that is.
Last week, I had two such incidents.
My neighbor and I were chatting and catching up. She’s almost forty years older than me and was talking about some new pain she’s experiencing in her lower back/side area. Thankfully, all x-rays came back fine, no problems identified. She found herself in a situation that I know all too well. Tests are negative, big problems ruled out, but still no answers about what’s causing the pain and no clear direction given on how to alleviate the pain.
“I tell you, living with chronic pain is no fun,” she said.
“I don’t know how you do it,” she said.
I bit my tongue.
She went on a bit, describing the discomfort, and again said, “I really don’t know how you do it.”
I looked at her and said, “I don’t have a choice.”
I do it, I live with chronic pain, because I have to. Because there is no alternative.
And though not her intention at all, and though I’m not fully sure why, her words got under my skin and bothered me.
The second conversation occurred the next day, during a telehealth appointment with my rheumatologist. Near the end of our conversation, I asked her about a trip my family and I are thinking of taking.
“We’re thinking about going to Hawaii,” I said. “But I haven’t flown since before my son was born, and he’s 14. I haven’t flown since I have this condition. And I’m worried, because of the blood clot I had after my biopsy.”
(In case you missed it, I had a second biopsy in September 2020. A “routine” procedure that was supposed to provide some answers to my rheumatology team. No answers, and I developed a “very rare” blood clot in my left calf. You can read about it here.)
She answered my questions, told me some things I could do before, during, and after flying. And then she said something that has been on repeat in my head since she said it.
“Oh, go, you need to have some fun.”
And that advice, given with a smile through a screen, was encouragement and validation I hadn’t realized I needed.