Pain...has become my constant companion. I have a high pain tolerance, and have endured varying amounts of pain for varying lengths of time, as most people have during their lives. I have discovered a new empathy for people with "chronic pain". I don't know when acute pain becomes chronic, but I feel like I am approaching that threshold. I have discovered on my odyssey of pain, that constant pain can wear you down mentally, and cause even the most optimistic person (that would be me) to become bitchy and mean at times. There are days I feel like I am living someone else's life. I literally am a pain in the neck...my neck. You wouldn't think it is that big a deal, but as the pain gets worse, the muscles of my neck and shoulders tighten up, increasing the pain, and it becomes a vicious circle I can't seem to escape. Steroid injections help for a bit, but yoga has been my salvation, so much so that when I skip 2 or 3 days (like I have now) my shoulders and neck remind me to return to my yoga. Yoga has increased my flexibility, and keeps the pain at a bearable level. I don't do well with pain killers, and would rather have the pain than to have my consciousness altered on a daily basis by a narcotic. I do take ibuprofen and a mild muscle relaxer (nothing strong for me there either), and indulge in a glass of wine and a spell in the hot tub on some evenings. All this helps. But nothing cures it.
Sorrow...August is the month I was born in, and that my father died in. It's been 61 years for me now, and I celebrate every year (ok, most of the time I do), and since 2000 I grieve for my father at the same time. I celebrate my years, not the month. August to me has become only a reminder of how much I wish I could talk to Dad one more time, laugh with him, hear his voice. I miss all the loved ones who have died, but August seems to bring it into a fine focus, like looking at your grief under a microscope. I can't bear to look too long, because the more I look, the sadder I become. I am not a weeper (my mum can attest to this) but I seem to do a good bit of it in August. I guess Dad wouldn't mind too much, although I only saw him cry twice my whole life. (He wasn't a weeper either.) From Dad comes my airhead behavior, that ability to be among people physically and be thousands of miles away lost in thought. I also got my sense of humor from him, and my love of books and learning. He also sent me Maddie Kate. She has our forehead, ears, and looks at the world like we do...sometimes I swear I look into Dad's eyes when I am looking at her. This gives me comfort and more joy than I can even describe.
Laughter...this is what keeps me going. When things seem dark and gloomy, and I feel like I am sunk into a hole and can't see my way out, something happens to make me laugh. Most often it is family, and the family creating the most humor right now are my grand kids. Jen called the other night to relate her trip to church with the twins. (The twins were recently baptized and all three of them joined a local church.) This past Sunday they had their first Lord's Supper (communion). In a southern Baptist church, this means you get a tiny hard crust of bread, and a plastic thimble of grape juice. Jen called to tell us some of the things the kids did and said during the service:
Maddie: Where's supper? I thought we were going to eat supper, a REAL supper?
Duncan: We're going BACK to church tonight? Why do we have to go so much? We just went this morning!
Maddie: This isn't bread...it's a CRACKER. It tastes awful. (Jen had cautioned them not to crunch it, to let it soften in their mouths before they chewed it up.)
At some point Jen looked around and noticed Maddie had taken her empty thimble of grape juice and was running her tongue to the bottom of it, licking it clean. I think she forgot to teach the kids their communion manners.
The twins last statement on the way out of church was:
"That was Jesus' blood? It didn't taste like blood."
So yes, in the midst of pain and sorrow, there is also joy and laughter. And this always brings me out of the valley.
...life is truly good. ~cath
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