Lead, Kindly Light

Wednesday was a happy, loving “up” day. We went to tea with a good friend, who had found a recipe for vegan ice cream that I could eat. She knew I am milk intolerant saying I can't have had ice cream for years. It was delicious! We laughed and chatted – it was warm with comfort.

So why the next day can I hardly move for pain? The meds aren't touching it. But what comes home, yet again, is that the effort of dealing with pain is the most defeating part. Yes, it hurts, relentlessly, but what brings me to exhausted tears is the psychological energy that goes into coping.

I know I must drive any change: get up and move, preferably walk, fill the long hours with something constructive, positive. It will hurt, just to move, but it is also hurting to lie, my back smouldering. I try to do the math: if I take more meds, my head will be even more befuddled – but I may get some physical relief. If I sit to read, watch TV or chat, my sacrum will flare more – and will be worse tomorrow.

My eyes are swollen with pain, brain clumsy – concentrating is hard; decisions impossible. Not so different from so many days – the same “buck up” tape rolls relentlessly. Then it hits: the killer is the psychological self-talk, the hyping up to make the best of things, not mind the monotony, be glad for my friends, kid myself that the hours aren't empty and that ironing is a treat. Actually it is ideal: some movement, achieving order and a nice pile of clean shirts, meanwhile listening to the radio. Ticks all the boxes. But it takes psychic energy, lots.

There must be a better way. Today is another day and my back is calm. I am writing on my iPad, lying down. So let's crack it!

Cheerleading doesn't work. It is exhausting and my brain is bright enough to see right through it. Gratitude helps but is difficult on the fly when the bad patently overwhelms the good. I can be glad I am not a widow like Jill which is huge, or dying like Mary, but it feels mean to get a foot up on their suffering. What is needed is a genuine belief that life is good, which I do manage most days.

So how to get there without wearing myself out before I start. That manic cheer of the determined coper rings false. How to find the sweet spot of gentle grace? Unforced, grateful, loving?

What about setting up gratitude in advance? Before going to sleep at night, why not look ahead down the path of tomorrow? What are the small things that give pleasure each day? Reading the paper with a cup of tea each morning; the perfection of an egg with buttered toast; home made soup for lunch; napping with an audiobook; a drink together at four; a favourite TV program before bed – we are working through The West Wing.

So now the daily path has lamp posts shining gratitude in advance. No need to psych myself up against an empty day. Just recognize each blessing as it comes.

The cat purrs and settles herself to sleep against my chest. All set for a good day tomorrow.


Healthy Chocolate Ice Cream from Chocolate Covered Katie

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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