Paradox of Pain


Humor and paradox are sometimes the only way to react to life’s sorrow with grace. (Matthew Fox)

It’s been a long journey through pain. From throbbing despair to equilibrium (sort of). Looking back, I see my posts are now more about self-help than physical pain, which does seem odd, except the many treatments have not really helped the pain. But now I don’t mind as much. It is more detached from me, unpleasant on the bad days and still just as limiting, but somehow no longer defining me as a human being.

Have just been reading yet another book by a pain specialist on the chance there may have been something I have overlooked. This time, the doctor had suffered back pain himself, to the extent that he could only read lying flat on the floor with the book hanging over him. He was not condescending as so many are; he wasn’t starting with the assumption that pain sufferers (horrible term) are enjoying their pain, as one doctor told me. He has been there, in the trenches.

He wrote that he was humbled by his patients, living with appalling suffering (far worse than mine). There was one recurring theme: they were grateful for what they had learned. That I do understand. It is paradoxical that out of such bleak despair, comes such rich growth.

Or is that really a summary of life? Think of how many life-saving inventions come out of war, how flowers bloom on bomb sites. Is life not the contrast of black and white, good and evil, but an organic process – rather as winter is not a contrast to spring, but the crucible of life.

The paradox lies in the seed buried within our anguish. Soul grows from pain. The skill is in panning the pain for the gold hidden within. There are always two paths: one can be dragged through in glum endurance – or one can look for the merest glint of gold, which when embraced opens into joy.


About UntraveledRoads

Fascinated by life, looking for answers to chronic pain and finding unexpected gifts. Interested in people, ideas, healing and humour. I am very happily married with three children and a kitten. As English born immigrants to Canada, we have family spread overseas, a daughter in South Africa and one in England. We also run a charity in South Africa to educate black, rural South African Women. Our first girl from a rural township has just graduated as an accountant from Johannesburg University and got a good job in a bank.
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