Thursday, March 13, 2008

Pain: The Unwanted Hitchhiker

Chronic pain is so very inconvenient. It is so limiting and restricting, like a belt worn unnecessarily tight.

Pain effects one's sleep, one's ability to exercise. It can curtail the enjoyment of sex, and even the most burgeoning appetite. It restricts one's activities, precludes some activities altogether, and can be a demoralizing agent whose influence cannot always be ignored.

Pain is like a hitchhiker who has worn out his welcome but cannot be extricated from the passenger seat. Perhaps his first appearance was not overly worrisome, and he exited peacefully when requested to do so. Maybe he was even helpful that time you had an emotional flat tire and needed an excuse to rest. But months later, thoroughly ensconced in the back seat, wearing an iPod, drinking a Coke and ignoring your every plea, this aberrant guest now refuses to let you be. The welcome mat---if it had ever been in place---was long ago jettisoned, but this vagabond ignores the rules and clings to you like a needy child.

When did this pain become such a burden? At what point did I realize that my life was being taken over? When was it that I picked up a passenger whose very presence makes me scream with impatience?

And so, with no other bright ideas, I embrace pain as a teacher. I follow his lead, peering into dark alleys which have long been ignored. He leads me to painful emotional places riddled with doubt and self-loathing. His mere presence is yet another vehicle for cultivating a mindful response to life, acceptance of what is, however difficult or ugly.

I am mindful of my pain, but also mindful of my innate ability to rise above its undo influence on my life. He is an unwanted hitchhiker, it's true. But even the most unwanted guest may hold in his hand a gift of great beauty, and since he is slow to reveal his secrets, I will continue to pursue them, even as I wish him gone.

So, dear Pain, my most aberrant passenger: reveal your gift and be done with it. I am ready for the message now, and ready for you to move on. The damage has been done, and I am poised to reclaim my life from your messy grasp. Relinquish me now, and leave your gift by the door. And please, don't look back. You will not be missed in the least.

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