Peeling carrots, with music from our daughter's wedding washing over me. It could be bittersweet because that marriage took her far away. I could wallow in sentiment or, come to that, chop carrots irritably, or against time. I could see this as one more chore, or reflect how this day has been humdrum as most days are, where I lie down a lot to lessen pain, where friends in casual conversation underscore all the things I can no longer do.
But the moment, taken like a rainbow drop, is perfect. I look neither forward or back, but in this instant of time I am perfectly happy. All else falls away. No one, I think, watching the water dance off carrot slivers, could be happier than I.
And this is the gift of pain. Anyone reading my blog probably thinks my life and consciousness is centred on pain – I certainly write about it enough! Yes and no, in the words of Sir Humphrey Appleby in Yes, Minister. Yes, my life is bracketed by pain. It gives borders to my actions. It acts as a curb on a high stepping horse. It rules what I can and cannot do, mainly what I cannot! I can push myself, but pain kicks back, lassoing me and tethering me firmly. It punishes me by punishing those I love most, my children living far away, the grandchildren I seldom see, but most of all it punishes my husband whose life is also dictated by this tyrant. It is he who also doesn't go to the theatre, travel, drive to the city for a show. He who makes life possible by small acts of kindness, standing in line for me at checkouts, fetching and carrying, vacuuming and cleaning the bath. He whose life is also curtailed and who never grumbles at the curve thrown him in retirement.
But NO, pain has been enormously enriching. My mind is busy all the time, reading, savouring ideas delighting in absurdity. Words roll round my mouth, I play with them, translating into French or Latin, looking up their derivations and even draw their shorthand shapes.
I have so much time for friendship, for kindness both given and received. True friendship takes time and thought. It mirrors happiness, which contrary to popular belief is not a bi-product of a busy life. Happiness needs to be noticed, savoured, rolled around the mouth like a fine wine. So it is with friendship.
And you have no idea of the bliss of lying down and feeling the ache soothe out of your bones, or the sybaritic pleasure of a hot tub for a pain wracked back. Like stopping banging your head against a wall?! Or taking off a tight corset. But more, a delicious easing of a weary body. Just as you can't have light without shade, pain has the strange ability to highlight the good moments in life. They have an extra gloss, like a spring day after a long winter.
I have learned not to mind! Sounds so easy, but I was a slow student. So now I can choose what I feel, which alley way my emotions will dawdle down. We all, as Anthony Robbins points out, do things in order to feel the way we want. We move towards pleasure and away from pain, so the trick, I finally learned, is to get the feelings without needing the stimulus.
Budget was a good teacher. I learned early that the joy I get from sitting by a local lake is the same as my delight watching the sun set over the Golden Gate Bridge. (Except minus the air fare.) Extrapolating that, there's no reason I can't have the same feeling looking across the lake at the cloud softened hills as I might get from seeing the Taj Mahal.
I have learned patience (very, very slowly as I am always half way out of the chair before the hairdresser has rinsed my hair). Pain teaches you to wait, to say, “it hurts to much today to …., but tomorrow? Even when tomorrow never comes.
Doors may have slammed shut, but I have a huge picture window!