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Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Today You Can Call Me Miss Strawberry Sunshine

Yesterday while we were shopping, my son asked if we could buy some new shampoo. I told him to pick out what he wanted and to my surprise, he came back with a bottle of strawberry scented stuff. I don't really care if he wants to smell like strawberries. Honestly, it made me smile. I washed my hair with it last night, and even though it's not nearly as nice a quality is the stuff I usually use, I'm loving it today because it brings me back to a time when strawberry shampoo was one of the things that got me through a really rough point in my life.

It's amazing how your life can reduce when there is chaos swirling all around you. I've shared this story before but it illustrates the point again: when my father-in-law was in his final days of late-stage lung cancer, he was unable to do  most of the things that made his life enjoyable. His days had become marathons of sleeping in a medicated haze and occasional bouts of wakefulness where he couldn't do much more than sit in a chair for a little while. During those awake times, if the weather was good, he just wanted to sit on the back porch and feel the sun on his face, maybe catch a little ocean breeze since they live near the shore. Some people would look at that as a life devolving. He chose to look at it as life simplifying - going back to its basic elements, to the tiny things that bring you moments of joy or contentment.

When I was hospitalized for a month in 2018, I was a thousand miles from home, missing my kids fiercely, battling a body that came precariously close to death and felt like it. Inpatient physical therapy was rough, and when you are dealing with catastrophic fatigue and pain levels it can be more than a little overwhelming.

A couple of days into my hospitalization, my sister-in-law was kind enough to bring me some hygeine supplies so I didn't have to use the crappy stuff the hospital provided me. She has a teenage girl at home so she raided the bathroom cabinets and brought me strawberry scented shampoo and conditioner along with all the other niceties.

I started my day with a lousy hospital breakfast and I do mean lousy - the food was atrocious in that place. Being shaken awake at 7 a.m. for crap food after you've barely gotten two hours of sleep in your awkward, uncomfortable and often pain-racked body is far from stellar. Then the occupational therapist showed up to help me learn to shower myself when I wasn't able to walk or stand or use one of my arms. It took five times as long and it was frustrating and exhausting, even though I showered sitting on a bench.

Then I reached for that shampoo. Suddenly, there was a bright little patch of sunshine in my grueling morning. Just the scent of that shampoo lifted my mood like you wouldn't believe. My therapists loved it too, as did everyone in the therapy room that walked close enough to smell me. It got to be kind of a running joke after a few days. They'd wheel me into the therapy room and everyone would shout out "There's Miss Strawberry Sunshine!"

And I did feel like strawberry sunshine. It was such a little thing, but when your life is a vortex of pain and frustration and exhaustion and misery, something as simple as smelling like a fruity children's dessert was an instant mood lifter.

Today, I am once again Miss Strawberry Sunshine, the girl who beat her exploding brain and lived to tell the tale.

So what's your equivalent to strawberry shampoo? What smell takes you away or takes you back to a happy or peaceful moment?

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