Friday, February 26, 2010

Pain and Peaceful Co-Existence

I just received a very nice card from a group of people I know. One of the entries from John (thanks John), told me to "Keep up the good fight". That fit me perfectly. Pretty much my whole life when dealing with any type of chronic pain, my response was to fight it. Some people embrace pain, others manage it, accept it, still others ignore it - I always fought it. I don't think I came to this naturally; just swimming with my genes. In her 80's, my mother's diagnoses filled the first 400 pages of the Tabers Medical Dictionary. Her physician told me he couldn't understand how she stayed alive, but I did. She always lived her life under God's tutelage, but willed herself to live those last five years. So my response to pain was to build a defensive position, set out a perimeter with plenty of tripwires and then when the pain arrived, throw every resource I had at it. It was not my friend and unlike Brother Lawrence, I could not see God in it. I didn't want to learn from it, invite it for supper, put its picture on the refrigerator or send it a card on the appropriate holidays. The pain didn't care and worse, wouldn't even give me a senior discount (10% less pain on Tuesdays). CS Lewis said that pain is God's megaphone to the world. All I ever wanted to do was give the megaphone a knuckles sandwich.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I've never particularly regarded myself as a couch potato christian, but I guess in some ways I am. Whenever something big happens in life, I try to see what God is trying to teach. After the last operation, one item was that God is everywhere and involved in everything. Like most, I carry my thoughts in categories, only recognizing God in the categories I thought appropriate. "Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est"( where there is charity and love, God is there). He had me recognize He was strongly present and strongly felt in my deepest fears and dark corners as well as in the everyday. His embrace has no constraint. He also had me revisit some of my failings. I learned several years ago, hobbling around on crutches in public, it was always the young person with 6 body piercings and as many tattoos that would go out of their way to hold a door or help in some way. Always someone I would have crossed the street to avoid if locomotion allowed. If you are going to rebel against current society, you have to pay some attention to it and try to make things better. Given the facility, I would be too involved in my interior musings to offer such help if the positions were reversed because I wouldn't be that aware. Funny how you learn things and who God uses as teachers.

So after this operation in November, I've been a christian couch potato laying in wait and prayer. What am I supposed to learn? Maybe just this. During the recovery, without realizing it, I didn't fight the pain. I recognized it for what it was. Maybe it's my age, maybe it was the centering prayer I do, maybe it was the drugs; but I didn't expend energy on the pain battle. I'm still learning and learning is uncomfortable and lacks clarity until learned so I can't be definitive. So I'm stuck in the in-between.

Is this important? I think so. Lately, when I've wanted to know the great philosophical questions in life; I've googled. Not the important stuff like how many stitches on a baseball (108), how many square feet on a football field (58,000), or when your toaster oven breaks down why you can't toast a piece of bread in the microwave just catches fire..or so I've been told; not those. But why is pain useful? Google I did and obtained no answers so I've got to go to plan B; I've got to think.

Maybe it's as simple as this. Once the pain is accepted, some degree of honesty takes form, more authenticity and movement closer to God. When I'm fighting, I'm not progressing, learning, or being humble. Just fighting. It doesn't change at age 28 or age 62. It's the same. Acceptance can lead to movement, to the truth of possibility, realizing who we are and our place in the world.

I see this authenticity and acceptance in other people. Wife Donna is one and Kristen Symank (2nd entry blog - Get Shorty) is another. They are special people because of it. Meeting them is memorable. How they obtained it I have no idea, but maybe it was through what Wikipedia called "an aversive feeling."

Something called pain.

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