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I was going along swimmingly, a coastal kind of adverb, when the first rumblings of “dis-ease” caught my attention.
My attack on this enemy matched the one my father used, take 10, cut back on activity and increase rest. What I failed to note was that its effectivity depended greatly on whether or not I had already gotten into life’s roller coaster compartment! For me, the ride had begun. It was up to me to hold on, hang on and roll with the ride. It was a continued and continual inhale deeply, exhale slowly and pray for the ability to hang on.
I tried to be valiant in the face of my foe. I did not succeed. Pain superseded all, took command of me and initiated a transformation that was both frightening and fierce. Before I knew it, Hubby Dear was transporting me to the hospital. Once again, I was admitted. The whole regimen of tests, pain management, questioning and increasing frustration with the whole experience took its toll on my capacity to suffer graciously.
Often folks will comment, “The devil is in the details.” I believe that Divinity is also in the details. God is my companion in the dark tunnels of life. God is in the details, trying to communicate something to me, to us, through all the rough patches. Pain is blocking my ability to hear, heed and act on the presence of Emmanuel...God-with-us.
Additionally, I am not a detail person. Big pictures, ideas and ideals are my forte. Put me in a place where I am in charge of the details that will form ideas and ideals into something tangible and I quickly fall apart.
It’s true that I make lists of daily tasks and events. I check off each accomplishment and feel good about it. But, my list-making rationale is not to accrue statistics. I view the list as steps along the way, signposts that evoke action and clarify the direction my journey might take. They help me to remember who I am and what I can offer. They also provide fertile ground for me to be re-membered in the process.
That philosophy has carried me through many hardships. I keep reminding myself that I am not Humpty Dumpty, whose great fall resulted in his not being able to be put together at all. I am God’s child. My falls will be effective, whether or not I am able to see the effects. So, I ride the roller coaster of life, screaming when I hit the peaks of pain and begging for the agony to stop.
I learn a deeper compassion than I ever had. I think of cancer patients and wounded troops returning with missing limbs and diminished capacities to a world where being hale and hearty has overtaken us.
Everywhere we look the message conveyed is that we are less human when we are overweight or out of shape. We are more acceptable if we air brush our way through life’s vagaries. We still seek the fountain of youth. Magazines offer multitudinous creams and exercises that will keep us looking and feeling young. Reality shows intensify the errors of our ways. None of this is inherently evil. All of it is seductive, luring us to believe that we must remain young, not simply young at heart.
Wrinkles once marked the presence of wisdom. Now they have become signposts of aging and should be removed. Sagging flesh and flaccid muscles are banished with multiple trips to the local gym. Grandparents of yore sported a soft lap as a haven for grandchildren. Woes and worries, fears and anxiety literally disappeared into the folds of compressible flesh. Soft laps gave comfort and eroded hardness. The effect was palpable.
Where have all the soft laps gone? Have we succumbed to a false sense of wellbeing? Are we denying the harsh realities of life? Do we need more than a crash course in pain management?
The questions hang in the air. I have no solution or resolution to offer. I can only ponder the mystery, accept the unknown, live the questions, and pray for insight, courage, stamina, and healing. There’s the rub. Healing may not include total cure. Healing may mean new sight, new insight, not only when pain is diminished but also when it is at its peak.
Healing may bring a renewed and intensified understanding of human suffering. It may mean awaken a deeper sense of compassion, graciousness, gratitude, and appreciation for all that life offers.
The lesson is not easily learned. It is not readily assimilated and integrated into my life. I still want the pain to cease. I want to return to the person I am, the person who lives beneath the stabbing agony released in terrifying moans and groans.
There it is, a saga of suffering offered to all who deal with pain of any sort. Putting the experience into words concretizes my encounter with the enemy. Hopefully, it also assists others in coping with their own suffering, suffering of any sort. To isolate the questions often is the first step toward integration, even if there is no explanation. As one of my daughters is wont to say, “It is what it is.”
With that impulse toward acceptance, I bring this column to closure, rise from my computer chair, ignore the pain, and walk about the house. I am giving my body the opportunity to heal as it wishes, in its own time. I have stepped into the roller coaster compartment, this time with grit and grace.