Three years ago the word was "real." The year after that, "creativity." Last year, the word that chose me was "resurrection." Most often my word does not choose me by January 1, although sometimes there are clues. This year, as we traveled over Christmas and then celebrated the new year quietly at home, I had an inkling that my word could be "unravel". Santa left some totally awesome typeface magnets in my stocking this year and I doodled on the refrigerator during the month of January. I spelled out my top three candidates:
Later that day, I saw that little c had noticed my words and left a list of her own. She wrote:
I paid attention to her list as well....my word could be there. But, as January came and went, I still wasn't sure which word was mine for 2014.
When I was quite young, nineteen, I think, I had several serious dental problems involving broken teeth, abscesses, root canals and ultimately extractions. Lots of pain that thankfully responded to meds. Going to the dentist still invokes quite a bit of anxiety for me but in an effort to stave off suffering I have devoted myself to regular dental visits and, for the last 17 or so years, I have not had any serious issues.
But when I went for my routine cleaning in September, my dentist told me he could see a crack in one of my lower molars on the left side. It didn't hurt but I had learned my lesson about ignoring dental problems! I was determined to be very proactive and head off any problems before they came to pass. I returned a few weeks later to have the tooth crowned.
And the truth is, things haven't been the same since. I have a wonderful dentist who has cared for me with expertise and compassion (and now I have a wonderful periodontist to care for me as well) and I don't need to go into all the details with you because...well, they are just details and aren't really important. And I'm certainly not writing to complain about my dentists. He's awesome. She's awesome. But the fact remains that despite receiving the best possible care from several very experienced and knowledgeable dental professionals, I find myself in a chronic pain situation.
It has become pretty clear to me that my word of the year is P-A-I-N.
Throbbing, aching, stabbing, never can get away from it, not even for a minute, make you want to shoot yourself in the head (no kidding) pain. While I have had some aches and pains in the past, I have never been hospitalized (except for childbirth), or had a broken bone or even stitches. I rarely go to the doctor except for routine exams and I take no prescription medications and otc stuff very rarely. The worst pain I have ever experienced was dental (worse than labor) and even then, once I saw a dentist, had a procedure and was given pain meds, I was totally back to normal in a few days time.
This is different. First off, the narcotics I have been given to dull the pain have not worked. At all. They don't even put me to sleep. Not for a minute. In fact, they seem to have the opposite effect on me. And so far, my dentists haven't been able to fix me. It's unclear exactly what is going on...whether there is a problem with an actual tooth or whether I have a bad case of tmd or both but this much I can tell you:
I am not me right now. I wake up and I think I am ok so I begin to go about my business and the hurt sneaks up on me. Sometimes, tears well up before I even know I am about to cry. Even when the pain is more annoying than severe, I find it very distracting. I find myself saying things like, "I just can't think straight." I can't get much done in a day anymore. I have to prioritize carefully.
I was determined to postpone writing about the pain until I could tell you that it was gone and I was well...and that I had figured out what it was here to teach me...when I could tie it all up for you with a beautiful and spiritually relevant bow. When I could say, "Whew! That was hard. I'm glad that's over. Here's what I learned."
But it's going on six months and it's not over and I'm beginning to wonder if this is something that will have to be lived with.
Another list might read:
When little c was in the hospital as a newborn for nearly two months and I was having trouble finding any light, any God-ness, in the situation, my friend made a long list of things for which we could be grateful. If I am completely truthful with you, I will say that I long for a return to my life without any level of this pain. But I can see gifts too...for one thing, this pain seems to be drawing some amazing women healers into my life. And, thanks be to God, they have helped me reduce my pain to something manageable. And pain is helping me hone in on those things that I really feel called to give my time and energy to...if you only have a little energy, you learn to be pretty picky about what you spend it on. And BS? I don't put up with it anymore, not for even a moment. Well, maybe a moment, but not much longer than that. And I am learning to be grateful for things like a good night's sleep which I definitely took for granted before. And I am extraordinarily grateful for my friends who aren't scared away by my pain and will sit in it with me, when I can't be alone in it. I am very grateful to be seen and heard by a few, even when my story is unpleasant. Again. As for the ones who just aren't there yet? Who are uncomfortable with the pain of others? Well, God bless them! I mean it. I've been there, many times, but thank God for those who can hang with those now suffering. Seriously.
One night little c brought me this "fortune teller" she made for me. Little c can hang. There is no doubt, c's got a gift for healing. She has healed herself several times over! This gives me so much hope because my c has been there and persevered. I keep it by my bed:
One night, when I had been feeling good all day and then unexpectedly was hit with waves of pain at a night time meeting, I tearfully confided to a friend that maybe pain was my path to the Holy, at least for now. She responded with tears of her own and when she hugged me, her tears fell on my face and I swear, by the time I got home I was feeling better. Yes, I downed some Advil (and some vodka!)...yes, I grabbed a heating pad the minute I walked in the door but I was able to sit with my kid on the sofa and watch the Olympics and eat a Girl Scout cookie, ask him about his life and crack a joke. I didn't have to go hole up in my room, alone. Someone suggested that my friend cries tears made of Holy Water. Maybe. They sure felt holy to me.
There may be holiness in this but I'd be lying if I told you I welcome it. I do not. Most days I want it to go away in the worst possible way. Please God, let me return to my old life...moving through my days with ease and very little gratitude...going about my day turning molehills into mountains and complaining about every minor irritation that comes my way.
I thought I was so present.
Not. even. close.
My plan for the year:
heal ! (notice the exclamation point...as in "NOW!")
I finally gave in and added "pain" to the bottom of the word list.
I really want this dis-ease to go away but at the same time, I feel sure it is here for a reason. As part of a new years meditation, I did a collage exercise. I tried not to put too much conscious thought into the collage, but rather to simply respond to images and words, without needing to know why. My friend Patsy taught me to collage in that way....letting the images and words choose me and then sitting with them for hours, days and sometimes months. We do learn to "go deeper" in spiritual direction. This vignette speaks for itself, I think.
"Run my dear, From anything that may not strengthen your precious budding wings." Hafiz
Then I wonder...what if I have the right words but have placed them in the wrong order? Maybe it looks more like this:
I keep trying to move to the end but perhaps I'm at the beginning.
Maybe this is just the first word, and the first blog post, of a series....maybe next I will be writing about unraveling.
My friend Patsy taught me to read my meditation collages from left to right, as in,left=now...and right=movement toward. That helps me see myself moving from the images of pain to the images of the young girl on the beach and the butterflies escaping their gilded box.
I don't know. I'll sit with that. For now all I can say for sure is:
"Whew! This is hard. I'll be glad when this part is over. But for now, it is what it is. Here's what I think I am being asked to consider."
(Because let's face it...whether it ends tomorrow, next month, next year, or 40 years from now, eventually this part WILL be over.)
And I will take any healing prayers you will offer for me. This isn't going to kill my body and I am aware of that luxury. It sure is taking a toll on my spirit, though. I think sometimes we shame ourselves, when we feel pain, but our body is not dying. I think we say to ourselves, "Oh, it's not that bad. It's not serious." We don't have to wallow in pain, that's true, but we sure as heck don't have to pretend that it's not there. How can that be helpful?
I think we need to take turns being healed and being healer. We need to give...and we need to receive.
So, lay it on me, please! Picture me, ready to receive your healing touch.
I learned this simple prayer from a sister I knew only for a few days.
Utubariki Mungu Asante.
Bless us Lord. Thank you.
I have important work to do and am eager to return to it, full speed ahead. When you bless me, you are blessed. When you receive my blessing, I am blessed. Healing touch.
Bless US Lord. Thank you.
P.S. Hit Michael up with some of your healing prayers too....under the weight of not only caring for me but picking up all my slack....plus working to support us ....he came down with Shingles. Not surprising, but still painful. Lucky for him I was able to direct him to some amazing women healers. And guess what? One of them, who is very intuitive, told me that she really doesn't like to work with spouses of clients...it can cause trouble, she said. But when Michael went in and she laid hands on him, she could tell that we were LITERALLY created for one another. As in...he was made for me and I was made for him. "You waited awhile on him, didn't you?" she asked me. Yes! "Worth the wait, wasn't he?" Yes! "You chose well." she said. Yes, I did.
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