Hows of Pain

I’ve been mulling over something lately.

Mostly undefined by my ability to cohesively articulate what it IS, exactly, that’s being stirred about inside, I’ve still felt slightly off-balance for a while now. This is usually a pretty good indication that changes, they are a-coming! Its time for me to slough off another layer and find a new dimension that I didn’t know existed before I was provoked enough to take a look at what was needed. Like the oyster, irritate me enough and eventually a pearl will grow.

I asked a friend who had some hard-won experience how she could remain so positive in life when she lives in a chronic state of pain. How do people (you guys as a collective) not sink down into the murkiness of doom and gloomville?

Very kindly and matter of factly, she answered me with what was her experience. That she had to grieve the life she had been living.

Me? I ask these questions for inspiration. I’ve become encumbered with a back and neck injury that has progressed to the point that the need for inspiration has become self-evident. VERY frustrating for someone like me who doesn’t like to dwell in the negative frame of mind, this constant thread of pain that weaves around every moment of my life is quite difficult to not succumb to.  In reflecting on her response, I look at my own experiences for answers:

Part of me says that grieving would be giving up on hope – for a better outcome, I guess. I fluctuate between being accepting of my limitations and the opportunities that they bear and sliding downward into negative thinking. I find that its usually when I’m NOT trying to live through a haze of pain that I’m much more accepting (imagine that!) HA! I look for opportunities within the realm of what I can physically do without causing myself further harm and I find it.

BUT ….and you knew there had to be a “But” or I wouldn’t be asking for input!…

But then there are days when I haven’t slept enough because I woke up in pain and couldn’t find a comfortable position. When having to become vertical is as dreaded as trying to lay comfortably – gravity being a universal law. When simple, mundane things like putting a dish in the dishwasher or walking up to my room or taking clothes out of the washer and into the dryer or putting on socks & shoes require a conscious commitment to try and bite the bullet – to make a decision to bear the agony I know will come from doing it, hoping that unlike the umpteen other times I’ve ignored my body’s alarm system, maybe THIS time it won’t compound the underlying constant pain. It usually turns up the constant ache a notch or two when I do.

The grieving is on-going – I suppose that’s why its a process and not an event. I think most of my life has been an unvarying lesson on how to grieve. I may even learn it before this life is through, who knows! But I am a slllllllooooowwww learner. Grieving plans, dreams, and hopeful wishing has been the biggest challenge because its internal. But yes, I also am grieving the loss of activities that added important dimensions to my life and helped balance it. Things I did for the sheer joy of doing them like working out, dancing, occasional white water rafting, body surfing at the Gulf, tennis, biking…the list is too long and the sadness encroaches if I dwell on it.

Right now my struggle is to rise above the feelings of futility and uselessness. My entire life’s movement and the motivation embodied within the majority of my actions have been to be of use. To contribute something to the people in my life’s lives that makes their days less of a burden and more of a joy. To be a tangible instrument of my Creator. Sounds idealistic I know and its mostly been an unconscious thing, but it is who I’ve always been.

That’s not to say its all within the physical world at all. I know that compassion and empathy and love and tolerance and living a life that’s principled and grateful all are a part of my life’s contribution. I don’t mean in any way to diminish or negate the intangible impact on other people. No, its more of a productivity mode, or lack thereof, that is frustrating me.

I feel like all I really do is take in resources without giving back to my family, my friends, my community. There are so MANY things that I’ve always done as a parent or spouse or just simply maintenance of what constitutes my immediate world that have become brick walls I keep hitting. Not only not being able to contribute to the financial security of our lives (and in all actuality being a DRAIN on it), but not being able to provide the minimum of supports in its subsistence!

“Home maker” is the antiquidated term for what is essentially a domestic engineer. My abilities to make a home have become things that if I choose to pursue, I am almost guaranteed to pay for physically, yet to NOT do them I pay for on an emotional and mental level. Then my family, primarily my spouse, ends up having to take on what I can no longer do IN ADDITION to an already burdensome load – all the while having to help me address and deal with the constant pain and myriad of treatments that I live with.
Rock > me < Hard place.

As far as that level of contributing goes, I have often and emphatically said that if I were an animal I would have probably already been mercifully euthanized. I say it with a sense of irony, but “The love of truth lies at the root of much humor” ( Robertson Davies).

I laugh because of the truth. I laugh because the alternative would be defeating. And as my motto and motives always reveals in my choices,
What good would come of that?!



4 Responses

  1. “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding.”
    Proverbs 3:13

  2. my mother lived like that. with bad arthritis, osteoporosis and discs in the spine disinterating. sad to say, she became an unhappy, negative person who was constantly complaining, finding precious little joy in life. you, however, seem to have put yourself into a position, that despite the pain, you are still able to enjoy your life. better on some days, granted, not so much on others. you also have a good support system going there by the sounds of it. and you don’t succumb to self-pity and helplessness. that admirable!

  3. Thanks Jonathan and Shadow, for your words.
    I really do feel that using each other’s experiences, encouragement, and hope is one of the reasons for other people in our lives.

    Time is a constantly moving thing…I know where I am today will NOT be where I am tomorrow and really all I’m guaranteed is this moment. May as well learn to be of use along the way! 🙂

  4. first. some of us take oaths quite seriously, and think long and hard before we make them. ‘for better or for worse’ was one of those.
    second. no real marriage has ever occurred where the responsibilities were always split 50-50, or where one partner was only willing to go so far for the other. my favorite joke is to consider a plate of bacon and eggs. the chicken is dedicated; the pig is committed. 50-50 is dedicated. Willing to go that 100% is committed. In reality, you bring what you can, but the up front willingness to go the distance lightens the load, as you well know.
    third. pain sucks, and not being able to do the things you used to sucks, but there are a number of people who would kill to have the use of their legs back, regardless of the pain.

    You do what you can, you take care of yourself and think about what you are doing to keep from hurting yourself, and relax. Be grateful for things like, well, at least no one has to wipe your heinie for you.
    And remember what the orthopedist said;
    chronic pain causes depression.
    You might want to look at getting some expertise in that area vs. handling it yourself…..
    i love you.

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