01 May 2011

This IS My Life

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.

I would love to hear from you.  Please use the Comment link below, or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com.


  1. Thank you for this inspiring post, Carol. Yes, the waiting is over: this is my life. Beautifully expressed.

  2. Carol, you have captured the essence of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) in this post. I read the book, "Living Beyond Your Pain: Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to Ease Chronic Pain" and the authors said that "controlling your pain is not the answer." Rather they encouraged people living with chronic pain to reflect on what they valued in life and to live according to those values, without letting chronic pain interfere. (This was also an important aspect of the theme "building self-determination" among women with chronic pelvic pain in my dissertation.) There is a lot more to ACT than what I have written here and I am not a therapist but I think it is really wonderful that you are putting your life in front of your pain. Your healing journey is inspiring!

  3. I have not heard of ACT, so thanks for this message. I will check it out. And what a great phrase, "putting your life in front of your pain."