Perhaps for many of us who are living with chronic pain and/or illness, there comes a time when we realize we have to stop doing what we have unconsciously been doing: waiting for the pain phase of our lives to be over and the rest of our lives to begin.
This moment happened for me during Lent - the 40-day period leading up to Easter that Christians see as a time of repentance and turning inward for reflection and prayer. Taken from the example of Jesus' life, this time of abstinence and quiet also prepares one for the death and resurrection of Christ.
Now, I have written before that I don't indulge in theological or christological arguments, nor do I need to believe without doubt most of the Christian doctrine on which I was raised. Yet still I love the season of Lent for its time of purposeful soul-searching, for the examination of the spiritual life, and for its sense of being in the physical world while living more intentionally from the world of the spirit. And so, although I did not use the season for the purpose of preparing for a resurrection, I did live into it for the purpose of delving deeper into my spiritual life.
Interestingly, what has come out of my Lent is the phrase that I used for the title of this post: this IS my life. During Lent, it slowly dawned on me that what I have been doing - since leaving my job as Founding Executive Director of Miriam's House in late December 2009 - has been mainly waiting for the migraines to ease up and go away so that I could get on with the rest of my life. Yes, there was the benefit of much-needed rest after seventeen years of work that I loved yet had taken so much of my physical, emotional and spiritual energy. I was able to live a more quiet life - wonderful for an introvert like me - and pursue beloved hobbies such as knitting and gardening. And all the while, living each day with its pain and fatigue as though by dint of rest and rest alone would I turn the corner toward health and some day, an actual job.
But this IS my life: the quiet days, enforced both by pain and by my own choice because I love the quiet; the frustration of postponing outings, activities or visits due to a migraine; pain management and learning how to eliminate the suffering that I often layer on top of the physical pain (more about that in my next post); and the narrowing of my circle of friends.
This IS my job: to learn more about living peacefully with chronic pain; to allow the pain and my responses to it to deepen my spiritual life and broaden my approach to all of life; to practice patience when the pain is so bad that I want to scream in your face; to rejoice in the small things that are actually great blessings; to spend more time in the silence and stillness that nurtures me; to pick up again the journaling that I abandoned years ago; to explore as I love to do the religions of the world and allow them to teach me new practices, ideas and spiritual truths.
This is my life.
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Carol D. Marsh
- With a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction degree (Goucher College, August 2014), I am looking at a new phase in my life. From 1992 to 2009, I served as Founding Executive Director of Miriam's House, a residence for homeless women living with AIDS. I left this position when Chronic Migraine Disease overtook my ability to do my job. Now I hope that a writing career will both accommodate the migraines and give me a creative, productive outlet. And soon, September 4, I will launch my Inkshares author page in a bid to hit the 1,000 pre-order goal in 90 days. The book I want to publish is "Nowhere Else I Want to Be," a memoir of ten of my years at Miriam's House.