“You grow up the day you have your first real laugh at yourself.” – Ethel Barrymore
In April, the MLWT book discussion group on Shelfari.com hosted Carla Ulbrich’s book How Can You NOT Laugh At A Time Like This? (Tell Me Press, 2011), where Carla herself joined in. I was drawn to this book simply because I strongly believe in the value of humor as a healing force. Anyone out there offering me an off-beat way of looking at life with a chronic health condition is numero uno on my list.
This month was Lupus Awareness Month and in the past I’ve usually jumped on the band wagon to promote the services, programs, websites and blogs that I think are beneficial for those of us out here living it day in and day out. However, a strange thing happened on the way to my blog this month, …
I know I’m a coordinator for a network aimed at linking people, service programs with information about lupus, but I just couldn’t muster up the motivation this year. I really wanted to celebrate us as whole individuals and find the lighter side to life with lupus, but I have fallen flat in the past when I’ve offered opportunities in having some fun with the lupus trials and tribulations during a time when everyone truly wants to take things more seriously. I know we struggle and want to be heard, but I really had a hard time with giving lupus the spotlight. I wasn’t alone, either. After writing (and working) for lupus advocacy and awareness for the last three years straight, I find myself with many other veteran health bloggers who are expressing a need to regain some perspective.
I credit Carla and her book for my resistance to give lupus too much air time. Her book puts living with lupus right into our own laps. This mirrors my shift in what I do here and I heard what she had to say loud and clear. Many books out there speak about the challenges faced when seeking out quality care or figuring out how to deal with strange symptoms. However, these books usually appeal to the readers with a sympathic undertone as if we’re at the mercy of our health. I didn’t get that from Carla, even though I am certain that she is a very caring individual. She connected with me through irony and that was refreshing. I tend to deal with personal stress in a more problem-focused, instrumental way initially. I prefer to deal with the lupus first and not reflect on how I respond emotionally to it.
Rather than being a how-to book on surviving lupus, Carla’s book focuses on weighing the necessary evils of life with a chronic illness. Yes, medications aren’t the wonderful panacea Big Pharma would like you to think they are, but treatment options have come a long way in offering us something to consider in order to gain some balance. Yes, eating more healthy and being very conscious of what we put into our bodies is important, but it isn’t easy and will take a lot of work that will be worth it in the long run. Yes, life with a chronic illness is crappy, but to continue to carry that perspective in your heart and mind every day will take its toll on you in more ways than a black cloud over your head. It may mean your health will only get worse.
She writes about the no-nonsense stuff we all experience with any health challenge. Personal choices in nutrition, medical care and treatments, finances and work, relationships with others and ourselves, the value in educating ourselves with options and being responsible when making decisions. And, underneath it all, Carla delivers her thoughts not as a know-it-all or health guru, but as a gal you love to have with you on a girls-night-out. You know, that tone or feeling of being a little rebellious when you’re out with your friends looking for some fun, while needing to connect with the people you trust to divulge the ugliness life can bring into your life? When you can announce that sweat pants are your favorite thing to wear lately and then mention you’re frustration in having to admit it to yourself, only to find that your friends are nodding their heads in unison.
I’m grateful to Carla for dropping by and taking part in the book discussion. I’m even more grateful to her for offering me a book that I can return to over and over to read when a girls-night-out isn’t in the energy cards for me at the moment. She backs up her points with research that is easily traceable and from quality sources. She takes the temptation to focus on being victimized by the disease and reminds us to re-focus on being our own best friend. She points out that this world is full of people who either mean well or just won’t get it, then she follows up with some good tips and recommendations to do for yourself that will leave those people standing in your dust. We can’t do much to change others, but we can do a lot to change the way we choose to take care of ourselves.
Her book’s title is perfect and she writes about lupus in the truest sense of irony:
By definition, irony means using words that communicate the opposite of a literal meaning. In her book, Carla writes about lupus as a hellish, unfair and isolating experience and then offers us her perspective where she suggests that living with it can actually be funny, victim-free and an opportunity to appreciate the valuable relationships in your life.
Beginning with the one you have with yourself. Let go of some of that pressure from your own emotional build up with a laugh and allow yourself to recognize how ridiculous some of your challenges are for you.
Then, get busy.