April 30, 2014

The Ache of Gratitude

In the last week I have had ample reasons for gratitude. For family and friends who have cared for my kids with very little change at all required for my offspring. My daughter even suggested that she would really just prefer to live at Grandpa & Grandma's house. When I asked if she wouldn't even miss me, she suggested we could come and visit occasionally.

I am thankful for meals so many friends have delivered that have saved my husband the energy of making meals every night after a full day of work. For dedicated, caring medical personnel; for people concerned with how I am doing -- all of these remind me of so much that is incredible about mankind. A female anthropologist (I believe it was Margaret Mead, but I'm not sure) said that the first sign of civilization was not tools or dwellings, but evidence of healing. It meant that despite a person's lack of ability, they were still valued highly enough for another to shoulder a heavier load until the wounded was recovered. My usual responsibilities have been shouldered by so many others this last week and more.

This morning, however, I am thankful for pain and illness, for injury. I have never been so aware of how often my upper arm muscles get used as I am now, when my right arm is having problems. Feeling pain is part of it, but finding with a shock that brushing teeth, putting in contacts, brushing hair, holding a pen, texting, opening jars and so many other things this right-handed person does are now excruciating, if not undoable. I'm in awe of the body's flexibility as I ask my left hand to step out of its understudy role and how well it does so much of the time (if somewhat awkwardly!). I'm suddenly humbled and overwhelmed by how much work these muscles in my right arm have done for more than thirty years without so much as a notice from me. I am so thankful for the pain that makes getting dressed, putting in contacts, putting my hair up, and brushing my teeth such an accomplishment. My pain has narrowed my life so I am more able to rejoice over things I brushed past as nothing for so many, many years.

Pain isn't easy. Ever. I can't possibly explain to you how much this past year has ground me down over the hours and days. You wouldn't be able to understand large sections of where I am now unless you walked close to me for large sections of it as it happened. My husband might argue that even if you have, it's STILL hard to follow my logic!

My hope in writing this is to challenge our default belief that pain is bad and to be avoided. This morning it has been a means of so, so much thankfulness that I wanted to offer that option to you, too.

[Tip for you: lying on your back will make it easier to brush your hair if your shoulder muscles are hurting, but it doesn't help for putting in contacts. Just so you know. : )]

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