I awakened this morning, raging nerve pain searing into my flanks, hips, gut and every little nook and cranny within a twelve-inch radius of my lumbar spine.
I’m really fed up with losing sleep and much of my productive capacity over this nagging pain. What’s worse, however, is that this morning I felt that it was starting to steal my joy over the good things in my life.
When the pain becomes so bad that you start to decline invitations to the movies because you can’t stand to sit in a theater chair for an hour and a half, the storm clouds of sadness really start to settle.
Up until today, however, I’ve mostly resisted allowing any rain to fall from my eyes over the matter, but this morning, when I fell out of bed, sleep-deprived because of the pain, I couldn’t bottle the storm any longer.
I lay in bed, thinking about the meeting that I was supposed to have with my friend Karen that morning. No, I definitely didn’t feel like going downtown today.
Still, I had made a commitment and besides, I didn’t want the pain to win.
As I stood in front of my bathroom mirror, I tried to edge my neurons into positive thought. I wouldn’t survive the day unless I managed to get my mind into a different place. It wasn’t a day where I could curl up with my blankie in bed. I had to pull out of this.
It’s a beautiful day.
It was the first thought to cross my mind, and I said it aloud, even though I felt as though the day were anything but beautiful.
It must have been God who put the thought there because it startled me, at the same time that I felt its strange power dissipating my pain a little, like a slow elixir being poured into a gaping wound.
I looked outside. The sun was shining. It was a beautiful day. I was about to meet my friend and visit a homeopathic lab in San Jose, and I was really looking forward to that. Instead of sitting in front of my computer all day, I was going to venture into town to learn about some cool new remedies, and then perhaps have a leisurely lunch at my favorite health food restaurant with Karen.
It was a good way to spend the day.
And as I went about it, the pain yet tugging at the edges of my joy, I focused on the sun, my new discoveries in homeopathy, and the delicious chicken salad that I shared with my friend.
When I got home in the afternoon, however, the monster yet continued its quest for my spirit. Before I had a chance to open any champagne on my pity party, however, the doorbell rang and in stepped my neighbor.
Amidst tears, she proceeded to share with me a fear that her son might commit suicide, and I felt my soul shoving its own anguish aside to make room for hers.
Pain? What pain?
As I offered her words of consolation, I swore I saw hope fill her face.
It’s a beautiful day.
She left my apartment, and the pain reminded me once again of its presence.
Oh God, how many more months must I live like this?
Again ready to uncork the champagne, I was halted by another knock at the door.
In came another neighbor, to talk about how her ex-husband had given her three days to leave their apartment. Was it not bad enough that he had abandoned her?
As I sat and listened to her unleash her feelings of betrayal upon me, I once again felt myself trading my pain a little for hers. Yet I welcomed her pain, because, as my other neighbor, I felt that I was able to take that pain and transform it into compassion, into something productive that would infuse her soul with a bit of light.
Only God in me could have done that. Only God could have given me the strength to forget myself for two seconds in order to give to another.
It’s a beautiful day.
Life is awash with pain, but it is saturated with opportunities for joy, too. The dance of pain fills the soul with anguish; but the dance of pain, when coupled with compassion and a positive outlook, becomes a dance of beauty that makes the spirit sing. If I didn’t hurt, I wouldn’t have anything to give another. If I had nothing to give another, my pain would be all the more profound.
Maybe this is one of the great paradoxes of Lyme disease. Extraordinary torture invites the spirit to soar to new heights, if indeed, the soul recognizes it as an opportunity to fly. What a bittersweet experience it is. Sometimes, I still go for the champagne, but I can’t help but feel a little closer to the divine when I choose another kind of party.
My back is killing me, but it’s a beautiful day.