Our little village is not listed on any maps, praised on any tourist pamphlets lining the walls of a travel agency nor is it on MapQuest. No, it is a city long lost in the fog of denial as most individuals occasionally arrive, spend a night in one of our fine motels, or hospitals and then move on in the morning. Its beauty is hidden for most visitors in the effect of their pain medication as they recover from the short term pain they are experiencing, and then return to their lives. They forget about the pain they have experienced as they move back to “regular” life. Many of us permanent residents have come to appreciate the intrinsic beauty of our home, over time and years of attitude adjustment. You see, those of us with chronic pain have long ago accepted this as home. We have nestled in, planted new hopes in the gardens of our lives and seek to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us. We have learned the pain we feel each day does not have to ruin our lives; therefore we seek other ways to value our time and our days.
None of us chose to live here, but like so much of life, it just happened. We had other destinations in mind, other aspirations and goals we sought to achieve. Somehow, we were chosen, drafted and uprooted to live in this place. The selection process remains a mystery to me. For many of us our arrival was a painful, embarrassing display, which involved much kicking, screaming and rage. I’m ashamed to look back at all the talking, questioning and pain-whacked seeking I did, just because I wanted some answers to why I was selected. I was heading in another direction when I came here. I never found the answers to the questions that I once sought; but I did find new answers as the old questions became inconsequential. The “Why’s” and “Why me?” were soon forgotten as I grew tired of the thrashing about and decided to, instead, look around me and see what I could make of this new place and the condition that brought me here.
Painville is unlike any other town on earth. In many ways it is a mystical place much like a magic kingdom. It may take awhile for your eyes to adjust to the change and for you to develop the sight to appreciate all that surrounds you. It is a village defined by relativity. There are many roads leading into this town and few lead out. Others just travel in circles through the byways of our lives or simply come to stall in cul de sac’s. You see, some of us can never leave therefore we have made the most of our destination and decided to turn it into a place where life can be full, free and filled with light. The fog has lifted for us and we can see beyond the pain to achieve more in our hearts and minds than simple suffering allows. It’s not that we have given up the fight; we’ve just learned to battle in a wiser way which does less harm to ourselves and our families.
I’m not certain if the magic is within us and affects our eyesight or if the mystical qualities are in our hamlet. I simply know that life is transformed once you have lived here awhile. Stark, uprooted lives become fed, fertilized and bloom once again. Families, some torn apart, may be reunited and find solace in the beauty of life that can be seen through the fog of pain. The smallest gifts of nature, the robin on the fencepost, the squirrel scampering up a tree and the ferns bursting out of the ground are seen in a gentler yet more vibrant light.
There’s much humor to be found in Painville. Our town hall meetings can become riotous at times as new arrivals must filibuster for awhile. We don’t allow violence but occasionally someone slips through who kicks over a chair, punches out a window or tries to choke one of our town doctors. We understand as we patiently listen and remember. Then we eventually pull them off the poor doctor and explain to them that it isn’t his fault they are here. Sometimes at the town meetings the new arrivals rant and rave and want to blame their parents, their spouses or even God for bringing them here. Again, we understand because many of us have done the same in days past. There are other times when new arrivals drive endlessly, spending all of their valuable emotional fuel looking for a way out because they haven’t found the quiet and peace of heart that comes with acceptance. We often watch them drive by as we resume our lives, plant our flower beds, cook our simple dinners and bask in the sunshine of new dreams and aspirations. We know they will settle down, eventually. We know new, undiscovered talents will be revealed.
Tragically, some of our residents never do settle down. They escape rather than accept. They use various escape routes. Since most of the roads lead back here, they flee into alcohol or an excessive amount of pain pills. We always try to help them but many become angry and hold onto their animosity like a snarling dog holds onto its bone. You see, there is free will here in Painville. We are aware change comes from within and cannot be thrust upon us from an outside force. Some particularly angry individuals end up driving in circuitous circles for the rest of their lives. It’s a tragedy that comes with freedom of choice as we watch them head out on Highway Self-pity because we know it will lead to Nowhereville. They’ll be back but will they be different? I wonder.
We are blessed with many houses of worship, a rather ornate movie theater and several beautiful garden nurseries. We have the internet, cable TV and a fully equipped health food store. Many of us have enjoyed inspirational films and have learned many lessons from them. I remember the simple lessons of THE KARATE KID each time I am reminded of the importance of exercise and function in our daily lives. It’s a simplistic approach but an excellent reminder to keep moving to stay strong. “Wax on, wax off;” both arms, please. This is not a simple concept when one is in constant or even intermittent pain. We have many pet stores and dog parks as our pets are a particularly restorative part of our daily lives. Our four-footed friends give and receive love as well as giving comical accent to each day. They represent for us, the purest form of life as they reflect the way they were treated, trudge on when injured or aging and always show affection for those they love. They offer the purest and most innocent love imaginable. Pets are some of our wisest teachers and often embarrass our counselors by getting better results; they’re also less expensive than counseling. Our pets also enrich our lives by constantly reminding us of the brevity of life and therefore its value.
I believe my favorite aspect of life in Painville is the people you meet in daily life. They live here because they are struggling, suffering and constantly challenged by disease or chronic pain. Some have both. We have much in common, although we represent every ethnic, religious and social group you can imagine. Apparently, chronic pain does not differentiate between a king or a commoner, a rich man or poor one nor does it care about your background. Chronic pain usually chooses us at random although there are times genetic influences enter the picture. The beauty of having these friends in our village comes in the form of empathy, understanding and sharing of ideas. These ideas come to us in a difficult fashion as does most learning and we are eager to share what we know with each other, for knowledge and for mutual support. There is a certain comradery among all who suffer. We are, however, often divided into two camps of philosophy and thought. One group believes in trudging on ahead in search of joy and life while the other group is stalled in complaint, drug abuse and self-pity. Life is beautiful here in Painville but as you can see, complex. Freedom of choice runs rampant here and as long as one hurts no one other than themselves, it is allowed. One thing we each understand is the value of forgiveness if we are to move on with our growth toward peace.
We’re each on a different time table and each find our own way with all the dignity we can muster, all the pride we have left and all the determination it takes anyone who must face challenges in all areas of life. Many are rebuilding. Many are recovering. Many have learned the value of the 15 Minute Theory. This is when one learns just how much can be accomplished in 15 minutes if one rewards oneself with a rest or other diversion. Life is ever changing among the residents of Painville. We evolve, we often revolve, we are involved in each other’s lives and we will all surely survive.
I hope this explains and describes just a bit about our fair little village. I hope you don’t have to move here but if you do, it’s really not all that bad. You will come to accept it’s perimeters but also it’s beauty. I guarantee its possibilities but the results will be up to you as you enter a new dimension of thought.
All are welcome here. We’re always open and the WELCOME mat is always out, so wipe away your grudges and try not to track them in. We’ll help you in any way we can.