Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Feeling for Pain
Today is day three of absolutely no pain whatsoever. That’s right, baby! NO PAIN, lots and lots of gain! I cleaned two bathrooms today and I mean cleaned them! Woo-hoo! I believe it is the first three days in a row with no pain since the second week of November. I am not trying to win a martyr award for pain. Absolutely not. It’s not like I went through child birth or dealt with rheumatoid arthritis or back pain.
Although I will tell you that a few times the past couple months, in the words of that great sage of my high school years, SNL’s Rosanne Rosanna Danna, “I thought I was gonna die!”
But I knew I would be okay. And I am. I am more than okay. I am grateful. Really, really grateful.
And another emotion, one that I am not altogether familiar with, is peeking at me behind the curtains of my heart.
“Come on out.” I tell it.
“I am. A little bit.”
I look closer at what I am feeling. Wow. It is compassion. This is a new addition to my repertoire. If you have known me for any time at all, you know I am a compassionate woman. I jump to judgment too soon or I fall into apathy lazily like it’s a comfy bean bag. I know how to encourage and exhort. But when I need to feel with people, I have often faltered. I’ve always wanted to be like my friend Susy who never lets anyone cry alone, but I can’t force the spillage when someone’s hurt. I am just not compassionate. Not really.
But here I am. The end of my stint with physical pain has brought me to a crossroads. I can choose short term memory or compassion.
Who wouldn’t want short term memory? I would love to put every one of those moments of discomfort and agony in a box and put them in a pick up truck heading for a landfill. I could act as if these past two months never really happened, and just file it under “funny organ removal” stories. It could be interesting at parties. Then I could just return to life as normal. Sounds good. Short term memory sounds great. More than that, it sounds easy.
Compassion would take more work. See, compassion usually leads to some sort of action of kindness. Lazy Robbie doesn’t have time to be Florence Nightingale, for goodness sake. I make people laugh and then I usually fade to black and let someone else REALLY listen or help. That’s my yob!
By the way, it isn’t a joy to announce that you know you’re a bit shallow. I am not flippant in admitting this. Even the honesty of it doesn’t make seem more honorable. Just is.
But this particular pain has served a purpose in my life. God, that wonderful all knowing majestic Deity, who happens to be my best friend and loves me no matter how deep or shallow a day I am having, has begun whispering. Not just words. Compassion. It’s like He is blowing it softly into my soul and waiting for it to whirl around within me and see if it lands and takes root…or flies away.
This is where I come in.
I get to choose.
I keep thinking about Marla. She lives in San Diego and I love her. She has been through a few surgeries, including gall bladder removal, and so she began giving me tips through emails. She was kind and always informative. Then after my surgery, Marla just came through for me in a really cool, unexpected way. Her compassion for me made me cry. Every email, which was almost every day after surgery, she encouraged me through my pain. It was like she could sense - no it was like she definitely knew, what I was feeling.
“Robbie, be kind to Robbie.” This was a familiar phrase.
“Take a gentle walk today, Robbie, and be kind to yourself.”
“It’s horrible, I know. Your pain is real.” I loved having someone validate me.
“Don’t hurry your recovery. Listen to your body.”
“Rent “Fried Green Tomatoes” and think TOWANDA!”
Marla made me cry and laugh and kept me courageous at the same time. That’s the power of compassion.
So today I see this new emotion, still peeking out from behind the curtains, and I decide to invite it to sit with me for a while. I begin thinking about the folks in my life who deal with pain on a regular basis. For the first time in my life, and I am not being dramatic about this, I find myself really FEELING for them.
I don’t know what to do with this. It’s not like I immediately go to the store and buy out all their Get Well cards and start sending them out. I am still no Florence Nightingale. I’m not a Marla.
But it’s a beginning. I asked someone at my church if they have a hospital visitation ministry. Maybe that’s where I start.
I don’t know.
But I have made my choice. I don’t want to forget. I want the adventure of taking whatever God has for me. I tell God this. I sense Him smiling. He will work out the details. I don’t need to force it. I didn’t drum up this compassion and I can’t just instantly make myself compassionate. God placed it in my heart.
But I can nurture it by asking it to stay. Maybe we will write a couple of emails together. Maybe watch “Fried Green Tomatoes.”