I am often asked if I will write a second book. My answer is usually “No” because at this point I have written the first 50 years of my life. It’s all I know right now, however, I do still feel the need to write. I’m not great at this blogging thing – I’m not tech savvy enough to understand what it takes to improve SEO scores and such, but I do feel called to continue story telling. Every week for the last month God has laid something on my heart – I roll it around in my brain for several days and then decide whether or not it is worthy of a public forum.
This week my clear topic was pain and disease. Honestly, I am not really familiar with either one and I won’t pretend to be. I am one of the lucky ones. At 52 years old, I was recently prescribed my first daily medication. This tiny white pill from the usual brown plastic bottle is now a part of my nightly routine and will be for the rest of my life – but I am not sick. I have been genetically blessed with high cholesterol and even though I am not over weight, I eat well and exercise frequently, I cannot lower my bad numbers. My Heart Smart scan was unremarkable but I have a low calcium score in one artery. As healthy as I appear, I have the potential for heart disease and so I will take this little white pill to protect my endangered heart. My toes are also slightly crooked which causes my feet to ache daily. But this is not a pain that keeps me from physical activity nor does it dampen my well being. My only hospitalizations followed childbirth. I do not know real pain, core pain, pain that makes you want to scream or even cry. My life has been relatively (physically) pain free.
My mother had an unusual relationship with pain. She always felt like pain was the voice of something more important, that the message and lesson were worth what her body endured. She welcomed pain and as she listened, she learned its intricacies and connections to her physical and mental wellness. Illness was greeted in a similar way. Although unwelcome, she chose to coexist with and embrace disease for what it was trying to teach her. As a child, I remember my mother frequently being “sick”. She had bouts with pneumonia, various infections, and then came Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Myelodysplasia and eventually Cancer. In many ways her body was trying to destroy itself and she chose to be the student instead of the warrior. Physical and emotional pain were constant in her life – she spoke to them and became somewhat comfortable with their existence. When chronic pain is a daily experience, how do you recognize pain that does not belong? How is new pain different from what you’ve become neutralized to? Years of emotional pain took up residence in her gut, she wrote about it all her life, and it eventually manifested into cancer. It had been there for years, growing but hiding, and blending in with the pain that she had become accustomed to. Disease was often referred to a “Dis-ease”. Yes, she was frequently sick, but more often than not, she was simply not comfortable.
As a secondary victim to my mother’s trauma I became a direct witness to her pain. As a young teenager I watched horrific memories destroy her will to live and anxiously awaited a day when that choice might have been easier. Through early adulthood I watched as piece after piece of her breasts were removed until there was nothing left. Through radiation and chemotherapy her dis-ease became more apparent but she rarely complained. She wrote and commiserated through the end of her pen about her lack of health and wealth of pain but continued to live her life without hesitation. Even as her body physically gave way, she needed to feel her dis-ease and comprehend what it was teaching her. She chose not to be numbed from this important lesson.
Today, I am essentially dis-ease free but I am surrounded by loved ones who aren’t. My daughter is tormented by the letters – BPD and PTSD, My grandma lives with chronic pain from an auto accident 25 years ago. I have dear friends with breast and lung cancer and the sweetest man I know is ten years into a Parkinson’s diagnosis at age 49. All of these illness are coupled with varying degrees of anxiety and depression. While this pain is all foreign to me I am trying to be a student of it. I want to educate myself in knowledge but also in compassion. I pray that my lack of pain does not disqualify me from bringing comfort and stability to their lives. My pain is different – it is the disease of helplessness and the pain of not being able to make a life better. So many of us want to be “fixers” but typically fixing is out of our control. For what we can’t fix; for the pain we cannot relieve; for the dis-ease we cannot cure or subside, may we bring comfort, compassion, perspective and abounding love.