16 July 2014

The Selfsame Well

I ended my previous post with this quote from Kahlil Gibran:

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was
oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

I first read this verse in Gibran's The Prophet when I was a teenager. It has stayed with me these forty-some years, sustaining me through life's difficult times. During the past nine years, while I've learned to live well with chronic pain, it has taken on new meaning.

I have stated before, in other posts, that for the purposes of writing about chronic pain, I define "pain" as something quite different from "suffering." I see pain as physical, mental or spiritual pain that we do not choose but that happens as a part of life. Suffering is a choice we make -- quite often unconsciously -- to layer other emotions over our pain For example, I'm in pain when I have a migraine. I suffer when I let myself get worried, upset, or angry about having the migraine.

I've learned that pain and peace offer the same opportunities for deepening and holding:

The deeper that pain carves into your being, the more peace you can contain.

Suffering (as I define it above) doesn't carve into my being at all. On the contrary, it keeps me skittering around on the surface like the waterbug I wrote about in my previous post.

But pain carves. I wrote once, "being in pain like that [a particularly bad migraine] changes you."  Then I meant something negative, something I'd rather not have experienced. Seen through Gibran's eyes, though, terrible pain -- whether emotional, spiritual or physical -- digs out a space into which peace can pour. 

None of us would ever choose that kind of pain. Yet if it has come to us, there is consolation and wisdom in accepting its whittling away at a space that one day will be flooded with peace.

Thank you for reading this post. Please leave a comment below, through Google+, or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com.

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