Life After Shingles


“Bronwyn, call the cops!” Jerry hollered across the parking lot.

Jerry and I had stopped at the post office. I had just rushed inside to pick up a package while Jerry waited in the car. As I exited, I heard someone calling my name rather loudly. Is there another Bronwyn somewhere nearby? I didn’t know what to think.

That’s when I noticed Jerry standing in the middle of the parking lot, his face red with smoke pouring out of his ears.

What’s going on? I had left him seated calmly in the car. What had happened?

Jerry pointed to a black Chevrolet pickup truck and explained the truck had backed into Lady B, my name for my new red Buick. The force, Jerry said, pushed Lady B a foot or more.

“He’s trying to leave,” Jerry said, pointing to the black truck. I didn’t have my phone turned on, so I wrote down the license plate number. The driver’s getaway seemed impeded by the clogged traffic in the small parking lot.

This truck managed to get away after backing in to the car.

This truck managed to get away after it accidentally backed in to a car.

Jerry tried to talk with the driver as he attempted his escape. But the driver didn’t roll down his window or acknowledge Jerry.

I felt stress rising at the thought of our new car needing body repair after only having it a month and a half. But as I inspected Lady B’s bumper, I didn’t see any damage. Jerry inspected too.

“Wow, that’s amazing,” Jerry said. “There was a loud crash when he hit. I got out to stop the driver. Those are amazing bumpers.”

By this time the escapee driver found an open parking spot and parked his truck. He headed toward us with an unsteady gait. He looked to be in his late 70s and I wondered if he were intoxicated or had a disability.

Seeing that he had trouble walking, Jerry met up with him and they chatted briefly and the man left. I’m sure Jerry told him no harm was done.

Ordinarily, before the pain of shingles struck me four weeks ago, I might have gone on for an hour about the incident as I can complain about problems very well. I might have said things to Jerry like, “Can you believe that guy trying to get away?” I could have let that incident ruin my day if I wanted because it disrupted my peaceful state of mind.

However, it happened to be the first day I felt no pain from the shingles, the hideous condition that had me in misery for four weeks. The disease strikes the nerves, so the pain is intense like knives sticking inside you.  While in pain during the past weeks, I made a decision not to waste my life any longer on regretting the past, complaining about the present, or worrying about the future. Those are the things that rob us (me) of our joy.

Jerry said, “I don’t understand it, but the car is fine. Not a scratch.”

It occurred to me we have more to celebrate than to complain about. Yet, we often choose to focus on what’s wrong rather than what’s right.

We drove on to continue our shopping plans. When we passed by a restaurant on the corner, known as Arizona’s New York deli, Jerry said, “That place has the worst coffee.”

My pre-shingles self would have said something like, “Yeh, it’s bad. Whada’ya think they make their coffee with? Old socks?”

But I’m trying to live a life worthy of my calling, which is to not complain in addition to not worry or regret.

“Where is the place you had the best coffee?” I asked.

“Home,” Jerry said, thinking of his own home-brewed style with his own special technique.

“The best coffee I ever had,” I said, “was at the Sooke Harbour House outside of Victoria, BC~ and at that farmhouse in Tuscany. Remember?”

“Oh yeah,” Jerry said, “That was good.”

The coffee in Italy is so good, maybe in part because the atmosphere is so beautiful you could drink anything and be happy.

The coffee in Italy is so good, maybe in part because the atmosphere is so beautiful you could drink almost anything and be happy.

Sooke Harbor House has the best coffee.

Sooke Harbour House has the most sublime coffee. I think they pick the coffee beans off the bush after you order so the coffee is very fresh and euphoric.

I realize how much better life is when we think on the things we enjoy, love, and appreciate.


Back at home, we stopped at the mailbox and picked up the mail. The January edition of The Writer’s Digest, a magazine with writing tips and author events, arrived along with the usual bills.

Author Debbie Macomber smiled at me from the cover. Immediately I thought of something I regretted.

Eight or nine years ago, I interviewed Debbie Macomber (pronounced like cucumber, her publicist told me).  As a staff writer for our community newspaper, The Woodinville Weekly, in Woodinville, Washington, I had arranged the phone interview to discuss Debbie Macomber’s upcoming celebration held in a seaside Washington town. Debbie features the town in her books under the fictitious name Cedar Cove.

The interview got off to a bumpy start when I asked Debbie how life was going for her. She said, “I have been a fruitcake judge today.”

I thought she meant it as humor. I burst out laughing. HAHAHAHA-HAH. Snick…er… I didn’t hear any laughter at the other end of the line. Think of it. If you asked someone how their day was and they replied, “I was a fruitcake judge,” wouldn’t that sound funny? Or was it just me? Debbie (I think she told me I could call her Debbie, but that was before I laughed at her comment) explained she had judged fruitcakes during the day. I can’t remember what I said. I know for sure I didn’t ask which nutty fruitcake won.

Instead I moved on with the interview in the professional manner interviews go. Debbie talked of her life as a writer and sounded tired from a long, demanding day.

Years after that, whenever I saw Debbie Macomber’s books gawking at me from the grocery checkout racks or noticed one of her Hallmark channel movies showcased on television, I thought of me laughing at her fruitcake judge remark.

Now, as I look at her picture on the magazine cover, I realize it’s wasted energy to regret. We can only change the present and the future.


Out of pain comes something good. God has given my health back to me and I don’t want to waste it with complaining, regretting, or worrying.

I hope Debbie knew I wasn’t laughing at her, but with her. At any rate, she inspires me. Although she had undiagnosed dyslexia, took only a few community college courses, and started her writing career on a rented typewriter, she has sold more than 200 million books. She got where she is by her drive and her passion and her belief that she had something good to contribute to our world. Whenever she received rejections on her manuscripts, she read a chapter from Norman Vincent Peale’s book The Power of Positive Thinking.

Thank you, Shingles. You actually gave me my life back in a better way than I could have ever realized.



Here are some excellent tips on living a better life. I still struggle with No. 1.



3 thoughts on “Life After Shingles

  1. Phyllis Ritter

    I am still laughing about the fruitcake judging!!!! I would have laughed, as well!!!
    I love the “power of Positive Thinking”. I read the book in my teens and I believe it changed me and I give that to every teen I know that graduates from high school.
    I am so sorry you had to suffer the pain of shingles. My grandaughter had it in her early teens and suffered horribly & for weeks!!! It is always best to see the positive side of life. Great when you can refocus thoughts in a happier, more positive tone!!
    Thank you for sharing your experience with me, your reader!!!

  2. Janet Tracy-Beesinger

    Glad to hear your shingles are finally gone. And good job looking for the silver lining to your suffering!


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