michelle nicole photography

michelle nicole photography

There it sat, quiet and unassuming: tucked back in the corner of the attic coved with cobwebs and dust which added to its mysterious allure; an old trunk with rusted hinges and the faded remnants of paper peeling off the splintered wood.  Surely, these were old customs stamps from journeys to foreign lands, I mused. Oh if that trunk could talk, the tales I bet it would tell! Perhaps it held the beautiful wardrobe of a young woman gone on holiday aboard a rail car or all the worldly possessions of a family embarking on a new life across the Atlantic! On the other hand, maybe, it belonged to a famous magician! His amazing tricks, tucked away in the secret compartments within, used to confound audiences everywhere!

 “Oh child, the imagination you have!” Grandma chuckled. “That ‘ole box only held your Grandpa’s tools. Nothing very exciting I’m afraid, but oh the things he could fix with those tools!”

 Ok, so Grandpa’s old trunk had not seen adventures as exciting as I could imagine, but I loved considering the possibilities!  I still get fanciful when I peruse antique stores, walking past displays of antiquated and often-bulky household conveniences of years long past, wishing I knew the  history behind and the stories of each piece.

My husband Tom has several toolboxes, but none as old or as interesting looking as Grandpa’s; and more tools in boxes in our basement and garage, including a few of Grandpa’s old tools gifted to him by my father. Scattered among the double stacked chests with drawers I venture to say he has just the right tool to do any job, if he can put his hands on it. By my estimation, his collection rivals the offerings of home improvement centers. Although Tom may disagree on his way to the local, ‘tool corral’ to purchase more, the one thing he has to have to complete a project. (“You should talk,” Tom, retorts with a chuckle upon hearing this portion of the blog entry, “Have you looked at your collection of sewing threads lately?” Guilty as charged!!)

My orthopedic surgeon has a very impressive tool collection too I’m told. Including, thanks to Moi’, one bent stainless steel tamping rod – evidentially I have strong bones – go figure!  A vast array of instrumentation and synthetic materials that he uses to stabilize weak bones, artificial joints to replace worn out knees and hips; and implantable stimulators for pain to name a few. His knowledge of the human body continues to astound me and I’m sure the full list of OEM replacement parts available to him is long and notable!

 Despite the expertise of both these skilled crafts-men in my life and their abilities to repair that which is broken, I have found that neither had the proper tool to fix the attitude of my heart or restore the dreams of a life shattered by chronic pain. This undertaking was solely my responsibility, and proved to be a daunting task! So, where does one start with such a monumental restoration?

I realized relatively quickly that I had been equipped with a selection of options, tools if you will, for coping with how chronic pain affects my disposition; but how in the world does one choose the right tool for this type of DIY job?  Too often I found myself groping through of jumble of words and emotions wondering which would most effectively communicate how I felt either physically or emotionally at that moment, though I didn’t usually make careful or thoughtful selections. I’d just reach in my proverbial tool kit and grab the first thing I could get my hands on. Glaring eyes drilling holes into the back of heads, words snipped with unkindness and sarcastic comments hammered in, not at all productive for me or my family and friends. It wasn’t long before I figured out that I needed to have some organization in my ‘workshop’.

Through the years I have suffered, I have been able to sift through my emotions separating them into two very different boxes. In one, which I imagine to be made of beautiful hand rubbed mahogany with engraved brass corners and an intricate lock plate; contains positive thoughts, words and emotions.  Inside reside a combination faith, hope, acceptance, peace, happiness, joy, contentment and gratitude, which all vie to be first out when the lid opens. The other I envisioned was old and worn; faded with warped planks and rusted hinges. It contains thoughts, words and emotions that are more negative. A place where disbelief, fear, anger, discouragement, hopelessness, sadness, disappointment and denial all maintain a slow boil waiting to burst out with explosive force!  (Think Jumanji or Pandora’s Box!) Fortunately, I have been able to, for the most part, keep this chest tucked away; although the feelings inside are very real and very justified, however, its contents only served to perpetuate my inner, emotional pain.

While searching the inter-web; the ultimate DIY shop, for ‘instruction manuals’ to educate me in the proper use and maintenance of my ‘tool’ collection, I found one for Tom’s multi-tool (I need to find a manual for proper use of a search engine!). This nifty little gadget Tom has is a combination of several tools folded together into one convenient, compact and easy to use instrument.  I believe this is his favorite and most used tool, in fact, he calls it his “buddy”. That’s when I started to think…

It dawned on me, that I can combine all of my positive emotions into one compact little coping mechanism that I will call faith. Having doubts? I’ll just whip out my little multi-tool and BOOM! Faith in my ability to make good decisions; doubt now cut down to size.  Worried about a diagnosis? SNAP! Fear gone and in its place faith in the doctors treating me. Feeling burdened by the uncertainties of life? ZIP, ZIP…hopelessness snipped off at the root and faith assuring me that my Creator has it all under control!

What about you, do you have an emotional multi-tool? In life, not just that life affected by chronic pain and illness, but especially lives with such challenges; we need to be equipped with tools for coping with the devastating events beyond our control. I challenge you to sort through your emotional tool cabinet, take a step in the right direction and tuck away the negative responses that often defeat us but seem to be easier to grab and use than the positive ones.