The Pain of Being

Today I touched the pain of being.  I didn’t wake up this morning with that plan.  I was quite happy to be working from home, grinding my way through the nitty gritty of developing a course. I went for a walk and the sun was shining.  I grabbed a coffee and enjoyed some homemade baking back at my house.  Slowly tweaking my course into order.

I had a physio appointment after lunch to work on my neglected, seized up shoulder and neck muscles.  I’ve been making some slow progress and expected today to be a typical visit of heat, a couple of new exercises and dry needling.  It started that way.  In the second exercise my elbow joint locked into the most intense pain.

My physiotherapist jumped on it.  She had me lay down and slowly worked on my arm and elbow.  I couldn’t stop the tears from streaming down my cheeks.  Rationally I knew I was ok and the intense pain was intermittent as I relaxed and let go of trying to move my arm.  They tears were coming from the depth of me and didn’t know the rational world was fixing the problem.

After a few minutes my elbow released and I could move my arm again.  Just like that the intense pain gone, a soreness and ache in my arm was all that remained.

But this pain had triggered a pain in the depths of my being that didn’t seem logical.  I drove home, tears streaming again.

There is a lot of history under those tears; rheumatoid arthritis from the age of 13, a feeling of isolation, unworthiness, and loneliness.   A deep understanding of touching pain that questions the will to live.

I have been doing work on this, sometimes half heartedly, sometimes dedicated, not always knowing if it will ever make a difference.  Not knowing if I will ever feel worthy, loved, surrounded.

I felt given up on for a moment at physio.  I have been working really hard lately to work on my physical health.  To do the exercises I need to do.  It felt like a huge blow to my progress.

In reality I am moving forward.  The changes are small but they are there.  I have done my exercises everyday.  I emotionally have been going through a hard time with my marriage the last few years and a conversation with my husband several days ago has shifted my emotional torment a little.

I have struggled with why bother for a long time.  Why bother has meant years of not putting effort into doing work for my physical, emotional, and spiritual health.

Now I have kids, four and seven, and it started with a need to do be there for them.

I also need to be there for myself.

That is the pain.  Am I there for myself?

When I touch the pain of my being, can I be kind and compassionate and not beat myself up for not being where I think I should be in my life.

I am here.  Right now.

So if you see me (and maybe not the physical me but the other souls who have touched their pain) could you remember to smile and see me, see them.

See them, not their pain.

The beautiful soul that really is there just underneath.

Understanding Life Through Death

When Breath Becomes Air. by Paul Kalanithi

I had heard a little bit about this book and knew it probably wouldn’t be an easy read, but I had some time as I was recovering from surgery.  I saw it on my local library’s express read and grabbed it without too much thought.

To say I was not prepared is an understatement.  I knew he died, all readers know as it is written in the description of the book.  I was not prepared for the connection I would make with his longing to understand living and death.  I was not prepared to see the honest glimpses of a neurosurgeon resident that were not in any way above me or better than my existence.  And in the end of it all to experience his experience of death as told by his wife in the epilogue.  I did not expect nor prepare for the grief I experienced for someone I didn’t know.

I expected the story of a neurosurgeon resident to be somehow not so relatable to my life.  Not that I feel a doctor’s life is more worthy than others but I figured there would still be a sense of achievement within Paul’s journey that would set our lives far apart.  But I did not get that sense at all in his story.  He actually starts out by saying he doesn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps into medicine but instead studies literature.

What really pulled me in was the honestness of a story told from his perspective, in his search for meaning and trying to understand death.  This search is ultimately what leads him to medicine.

It was only afterwords that I read the reviews that said this is a book that will stay with the reader for a long time.  It does.

His death is heartbreaking not because his life felt superior and should have been saved but because losing a soul is heartbreaking in itself.  It is heartbreaking for his family and friends and now for all the readers who mourn the loss of someone who was trying to find his meaning and path in this world that can be so joyful and so cruel.

We are all just trying to find our way, our meaning in this world that can be so joyful and cruel.  Why do some have to leave so soon.  We can’t answer that except to know that it’s not about fairness in the way we measure it.  I believe there must be a cosmic reason.  A soul contract that we made before we came that contains the wisdom of losing lives so early.  That we really don’t know how long we have for a reason.

It leaves me with the realization that I focus way too much on the things that don’t matter in the end.  That the world supports me in doing this.  Our systems are messed up.

I focus way too often on losing the last 10 pounds, having clear skin, and owning the “right” stuff.  Consumerism is constantly knocking on my door, your door.  To buy more, upgrade, that all the latest goods will make our lives better.

They don’t.

Kindness, compassion, working to the good of our friends and family.  Lifting spirits, supporting each other in our journeys, understanding that we are usually trying our best from we we are.  That some start with very little in life.  Not just from a materialistic perspective but with a good family, friends and supportive community.  What would the world look like if we all had a good start?

And if we didn’t have a good start in life.  Can we support each other or at the very least give the benefit of knowing that everyone is doing there best in the moment.  Sometimes those moments we see aren’t our best and acknowledging that it doesn’t mean we are stuck there.  We can be better, love better, and treat each better.

It was a disconcerting experience grieving for someone I didn’t even know but I’m so glad I read that book.  It has stirred in me a commitment to being more conscious of my life.  To appreciate the struggle as a part of the beauty of life.

That there is more for me in my life journey.  It is all so uncertain right now what that is but I’m trusting a universe that would bring us Paul Kalanithi who so bravely bared his soul so that we could see ourselves reflected in the infinite universe.