For months I have been coping with daily pain. It would be easy for me to rail here about the pain, the difficult tests, the arrogance of physicians of both sexes, the drain on my spirit, my bank account and my quality of life. Or the fact that the source of the pain has not yet been diagnosed and has morphed its way into other locales of my body.
But what good would detailing my health challenges serve? Better that I share some of what I am learning through this challenge so the pain counts for something. Let me be clear: I am not looking for sympathy even as I send this out into the world for friends and strangers to digest. I actually wrote this blog a week ago and sat on it while I wrestled with my motivation. I wanted to be clear that I wasn’t looking for attention for the sake of attention. And what I have come back to is this: expression. I want to share my learning and I want a witness to this time in my life. That is all.
What I’m Learning:
For starters, I am learning to redefine the definition of a good day. Prior to this mysterious imbalance in my body, I would have snubbed my nose at a slow, ordinary day. Rolled my eyes, even. Now, ordinary is extraordinary….and any fleeting moment when I am without discomfort feels like a gift from the heavens.
I am learning to focus on what is important to me in the moment. Physical pain is distracting, but strangely, brings razor sharp clarity. I don’t have time or energy for drama, pettiness, or anything that smells of spectacle anymore. I am finding myself a little more direct these days, and that is not necessarily a bad thing (though uncomfortable for a people pleasing Libra).
I am learning that no one can fully understand another person’s challenges unless they have experienced it themselves. I actually learned this one when I went through my divorce years ago. The people who were able to provide the most comfort were the ones who had been down the divorce road ahead of me.
It’s the way it is. I have had friends deal with cancer, the death of their parents, the death of their spouses and many other crisises. I have empathized and supported them all to the best of my empathic ability, but I know I could never fully understand their situation because I hadn’t traveled that road. Knowing this, I don’t expect those closest to me to fully know the burden I carry. And on some level, I don’t want them to anyway.
I am learning some cliches such as “when you have your health, you have everything” are wise truisms. And I think I want this truism tattooed on my forehead where everyone can see it and where I’ll never forget it.
I am learning that laughter is the best medicine and the cheapest. Thankfully, I have people around me who can still make me laugh through troubled times.
I am learning the power of looking ahead….and yes, contrary to popular teachings, moving out of the moment. This might sound like blasphemy to New Age teachers like Eckhart Tolle and others. But in this situation, I need to look into the future. When I look ahead, I can imagine a healthier self. When I stay rooted in the present moment I feel imprisoned by the pain in my body.
I am learning the importance of being positive but also expressing the truth of my situation. Sometimes I secretly get annoyed when people say to me, “Stay positive,” when I am in the midst of a challenging situation. It makes me feel dismissed, even when I know this is not the intention. Let me feel whatever I am feeling in the moment–positive, negative, frustrated, confused, enlightened or just plain sad. My feelings need expression so they can move through me and out of me. Trust that I will always find my way back to my center and to a more balanced position. It’s my nature. (Again, the Libra thing.)
I am learning that pain can be its own muse. I am writing poetry, journaling and viewing life from a different creative prospective right now. And creation of any sort, is always a blessing.
I am learning to appreciate my body. In the midst of this health challenge, I am looking at my body in a more favorable light. I shudder when I think how much I concentrate on the imperfections brought on by aging. Now, I care far less about my wrinkles and lines and looser skin. What I want most of all is a healthy, pain free body to carry me though the years ahead.
I am learning the grace of humility all over again. The grace of patience, the grace of solitude, the grace of compassion for everything and everyone…including me.
And finally–or at least for the purpose of this essay–I am learning that sometimes “shit happens” and maybe there is a lesson, and maybe not. But I can always choose to learn something from the experience. And I can choose to be brave.
I’ll close with the wise words of one of my favorite poets, Mark Nepo. “Just as cries are absorbed into silence, as the sun always rises just when the night feels like it will never end, as the sky holds everything that is flying and everything that is falling, there is something indestructible at the center of each of us…”
Yes, there is.
What learning did you take from a difficult time in your life? I would love to hear from you.
If you’re interested in more thoughts on integrity, compassion and grace, particularly at midlife, read my book Tao Flashes. Or visit me at http://www.facebook.com/taoflashes or on twitter @taoflashes.