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Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants: Managing Chronic Pain And Invisible Illness With Words From the Wise

“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
~ Isaac Newton ~

We all need reminders to help us avoid the pitfalls created by living with chronic pain and invisible illness. One of the things I do to find calm in the storm of negative inner dialogue is to read and share quotes from wise people who have walked this path before me.

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls;
the most massive characters are seared with scars.”
~ Kahlil Gibran ~

Quotes inspire me to do better, to be better, to be grateful, and to accept that where there is pleasure, there is also pain. It is only through the contrast that we know how great each one is.

Impressions that inspire

Quotes can come from many sources. Author Stephen Levine was an American poet, author, and teacher best known for his work as a meditation teacher and counselor for the terminally ill. His philosophy was to be merciful with himself, and to try not to judge others. I love this passage from Tying Rocks to Clouds.

“When we walk across the floor and stub a toe, our conditioning is to send hatred into the pain, to loathe it and really try to put it out of our world, just the opposite of what it is calling out for. It is calling out to be held, to be cradled, to be accepted, to be touched with mercy, and to be explored.”

Dr. Bernie Siegel [1] is a surgeon and author who speaks extensively on the subject of changing the body by changing the mind. He cautions, however, not to act happy if you’re not happy. Our goal should always be peace of mind.

“Still, there is no denying that not every physical illness can be cured.
We can, however, make use of all illness to help us redirect our lives.”
~ Bernie Siegel, M.D. ~

Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross was a medical doctor, psychiatrist, and author world-renowned for her pioneering work on death, dying, and the grieving process, a process also equated to learning to live with perpetual pain and illness. She believed that life is like the changing of the seasons, an ongoing process of adaptation, and served as the concept we used to create our four seasons book series for coping with pain and chronic illness.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat,
known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of those depths.”
~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross ~

Giants come in many forms

We all have favorite book passages that we can quote – and should. And places like Goodreads [2] and Brainy Quote [3] offer a treasure trove of other famous quotes. But, quotes don’t always have to come from writers or famous people. Some of those I love the most come from my own family. I remember my grandmother saying, “Celeste, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.” At the time, I was probably ten years old; I thought that was a rather disgusting thing to say. But perhaps that is why I know there is no value in giving up.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
~ Thomas A. Edison ~

Many people open my eyes to endless opportunities. Through their words, I find comfort during times of trial, and I have found true appreciation of joy. In a review of one of our books that include a quote a day, our reader wrote, “An affirmation by C. Cooper near the beginning of this daily inspiration book really strikes a chord with me:

“I am enriched as a person by the relationships and self-awareness
developed by my journey with chronic pain.”

And now, something I had to say has been quoted. My giants are also my readers.

Organizing a quote journal

For any number of reasons, our interpretation of and our reaction to a quote are particular to each of us. That’s why starting our own quote and affirmation library journal is important.

It begins with setting a glossary of headings that are meaningful to each of us, such as motivation, spiritual, opportunity, gratitude, etc. Many of my favorite quotes have different characteristics, so I may have the same quote under more than one heading. For instance, this favorite quote can be found under my headings motivation and advocacy.

“Snowflakes are one of nature’s most fragile things,
but just look what they can do when they stick together.”
~ Vista M. Kelly ~

Other favorites

I am reminded of the giants that lift me up as a person, a writer, and an advocate. I shall forever be grateful. Following are a few more of my favorites.

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”
~ Maya Angelou

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi ~

“Remember, no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
~ Eleanor Roosevelt ~

It’s up to each of us to decide who the giants are in our lives. We don’t have to know them personally to be affected by the thoughts they have inked on the passage of time.

The sagest of souls remind us that we are far more than our pain and that we possess talents we can share when we are mindfully [4] present in our lives.

“The world itself has pain and pleasure woven into it as night is woven together with day.”
~ Jack Kornfield, The Truth About Suffering [5] ~


Celeste Cooper, RN, is a frequent contributor to ProHealth.  She is an advocate, writer and published author, and a person living with chronic pain. Celeste is lead author of Integrative Therapies for Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Myofascial Pain and Broken Body, Wounded Spirit, and Balancing the See Saw of Chronic Pain (a four book series). She spends her time enjoying her family and the rewards she receives from interacting with nature through her writing and photography. You can learn more about Celeste’s writing, advocacy work, helpful tips, and social network connections at CelesteCooper.com [6].