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By Liana Brittain


Everything old is new again. As humanity begins to explore the dynamics of power and inclusiveness, the role of the genders and the lines separating them are being questioned once again. World leaders and religious fundamentalists are taking sides, as this develops into a tug of war between liberal ideologies and conservative points of view. These issues are becoming polarized and extreme positions are emerging.

Educated, openminded people, with vision, are recognizing the lack of balance in society’s traditional view of the equality between men and women.  As an example, Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has formally declared himself a feminist and appointed a governing cabinet which is half female and half male. Recently, the Canadian Prime Minister has taken this one step farther and entered a joint endeavour with the United States Government by forming a bilateral task force called “The United States Canada Council for the Advancement of Women Business Leaders-Female Entrepreneurs”. This brings the role of women, in modern times, to the centre stage of global affairs.

Modern media is raising awareness of the position women hold in our society. The exploration of the ancient role of the divine or scared feminine is highlighted in the movie “The Da Vinci Code”. We also see this echoed, more recently, in the Grammy performance of Beyonce, where she evoked the energy of The Goddess as a pregnant woman. The ancient Celts had no confusion about cultural roles and gender. Everyone was equal and had the same rights. Woman were recognized as powerful beings capable of the great strength required to lead their people into battle or bear children. The power symbol of the Goddess, representing all womanhood, was that of the double-bladed battle axe called “Saragus”. I have chosen to show this feminine symbol of strength in the image “Empowerment” covered with the fertility symbols of vines, leaves and seeds.

Other roles are also expanding. Gender lines are being blurred as society moves to recognize the needs of those who’s personal identity varies from what was traditionally male and female. The younger generation of emergent adults recognizes the humanity within the individual rather than the exterior trappings created by genitalia. We have come a long way since Marshall McLuhan declared the “Medium is the message” *, but it still applies. As the global community evolves, we are faced with a war of words and ideologies. All facets of society are publicly demanding recognition of their own unique needs. We are being sensitized to differing opinions and points of view. Our own humanity is being called into question as we grapple with the concepts of inclusiveness. Is it cultural diversity that creates the fabric of our modern world or is it the need to become a homogenous melting pot?  These questions are not without repercussions. The extreme right is pushing back by demanding a return to the status quo in an ever shifting and expanding world.

We, the public, are caught in the middle during this time of global transition. The roots of the conflict are very basic: the fight for power and control on many levels. Cultural, religious, ethnic and societal norms are exploding and being shattered as mankind is torn between the uncertainty of progressive change and the safety of traditional values. This generates tremendous fear, anxiety and stress for those who are being bombarded by conflicting messages. People suffering from chronic illness and pain are particularly vulnerable. The link between stress and chronic pain are evident and well documented. Positivity and mindful actions are our best way forward. Focusing on gratitude, a positive mind set and relaxation strategies are paramount, as we fight to manage our symptoms and chronic pain. Here at Living in Pain Successfully, we are aware of the need to create an atmosphere of relaxation and positivity. To this end, we’ve produced a guided relaxation experience through a series of exercises designed to promote an oasis of calm and help restore a sense of balance in a chaotic world. Our consulting psychotherapist, Paul B. Couvrette, has created the CD “Serenity” for us to help achieve these goals. In this tumultuous time of upheaval and uncertainty, it’s reassuring to know we can turn to the ancient traditions inspired by meditation, yoga and tai chi to help us restore a sense of peace and balance in our lives. The world can rage on around us, but we are secure in the thought that everything old is new again. We can empower ourselves by creating an oasis of calm that will shelter us from the storm that rages in this time of transition.   

 *   Mark Federman - Quoted from: “What is the Meaning of the Medium is the Message? http://www.individual.utoronto.ca/markfederman/article_mediumisthemessage.htm” 

 ” Why is this understanding of "the medium is the message" particularly useful? We tend to notice changes - even slight changes (that unfortunately we often tend to discount in significance.) "The medium is the message" tells us that noticing change in our societal or cultural ground conditions indicates the presence of a new message, that is, the effects of a new medium. With this early warning, we can set out to characterize and identify the new medium before it becomes obvious to everyone - a process that often takes years or even decades. And if we discover that the new medium brings along effects that might be detrimental to our society or culture, we have the opportunity to influence the development and evolution of the new innovation before the effects becomes pervasive. As McLuhan reminds us, "Control over change would seem to consist in moving not with it but ahead of it. Anticipation gives the power to deflect and control force." (McLuhan 199)”

The Nor'easter


I developed Fibromyalgia many years ago.  The symptoms were very random and challenging. I never knew what was “normal” for my condition and what was something more serious that needed medical attention. It was scary. I lived alone and I some days I thought I was dying. “People aren’t supposed to feel like this”, I would think. The suffering seemed unbearable. I can’t tell you how many times I fell before I realized I needed a cane for balance and stability. There were so many broken glasses and mugs because I wasn’t able to judge the distance to the counter. Running my finger along the wall as I walked, became my new way of getting my bearings and keeping my balance. I learned how to walk the furniture. At night, I developed the ability to lay very still for hours because I couldn’t sleep and movement of any kind was unimaginably painful.

Fast forward twenty years into the future. I’m sitting here at my computer. It’s late at night and I can’t sleep. Outside, the third blizzard in eight days is raging. It’s another Nor’easter. The Maritimes are famous for them. The winds pack an incredible ferocity and I can’t even see the ocean for the blowing snow. The barometric pressure is shifting as the storm front begins to move off. My head feels like it’s going to implode.

In the beginning, I wouldn’t have had any idea why my head felt so strange and it would have frightened me. Now, I understand it completely.  I ignore it for the most part. It’s annoying, but I know it will pass and is nothing to be concerned about. I use my deep breathing to relax my muscles and I distract myself with the task of writing. I’m conscious of my body’s needs and automatically adjust my posture and position to combat the pain that never goes away. The Degenerative Disc Disease, Scoliosis, Costochondritis, and Inflammatory Osteoarthritis are my constant companions.  Pain stalks my every breath. I sluff it off. It no longer controls my life. It’s the annoying relative that doesn’t know when to leave the party.  It’s the irritant that nags, but I ignore it. I’m busy. Go away!

Have I become detached to the point where I’m no longer aware of the symptoms? No. I don’t think so. I believe that the strategies and techniques I’ve learned over the years, to manage my symptoms, are second nature to me now. Like breathing, they are things I do, adjustments I make automatically, until something demands my attention. Then, I stop and consciously do something specific to correct the problem.  This is the rhythm of my life with chronic diseases and pain. I embrace it and get on with what I want to do. I refuse to settle for a half life or no life at all. I want the brass ring, so I reach for it with gusto.

In the Chinese Calendar, I’m born in the year of the metal tiger: brave, competitive and unpredictable. Those character traits help me conquer my pain. They show me the path to mastering my new life. Still, on nights like tonight, when the Nor’easter howls and my body reacts to the storm in subtle ways, I wonder about how the newbies are coping. I hope they have someone to take them under their wing and say, “Yes, it feels bizarre, but you’re going to be ok.” I hope those who are newly diagnosed find someone to show them the way to manage their symptoms, so they can get on with their life, instead of suffering and not knowing how to manage. I’d tell them, “Be patient with yourself. There’s a lot to learn, but I know you can do it. You're braver than you think.”

Changing It Up

It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.
 Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962)
              American columnist, lecturer and humanitarian.
"Chronic pain has taken over your life. The days of spontaneity and “winging it” are behind you.  That doesn’t have to mean that life is over. It’s just different now. So, how do you take back your life? With planning and organization. If you’re like me, you’ll cringle at those words. I was the most bohemian, scattered, kind of soul you could ever imagine. I was the consummate artist type. I spent most of my life flying by the seat of my pants. Then, I acquired a life filled with chronic pain. My past life style didn’t work for me any more.

 The change didn’t come easily. It was like asking a leopard to change its spots to stripes! It required herculean effort, patience and determination. It took time to acquire the skills necessary to accomplish this seemingly impossible task. I had to be open to changing the approach I took to life. As foreign as they were to my natural way of just letting life happen randomly, I realized I needed new strategies. I needed to learn how to organize and plan. Regardless of whether this strains credulity or not, this leopard did change its spots to stripes. It didn’t come easily, but, I can assure you that even devoted bohemians like me can discoverer that things like organization and planning are skills that can be learned. If you already have those skills, you are so far ahead! Unfortunately, for me, I had to learn them slowly over time. Now, they are my super powers. I rely on them to help me navigate my life successfully."

This is an excerpt from the next learning module in the LiPS program. I'm currently writing "Super Heroes" . This learning unit focuses on daily living strategies to help manage chronic pain, while still maintaining a high quality of life and doing the things you love to do. I anticipate that it will be available in the coming weeks. If you are interested in keeping up to date with the latest developments in Living in Pain Successfully! follow us on our Facebook page. We feature current articles, motivational memes, and opportunites to win prizes at least once a month!