WHAT SIZE IS YOUR COURAGE?
I’m constantly amazed at the power of the human spirit. I’ve met so many wonderful people in my nursing career and on this blog. The degree, the size or the intensity of the pain is not nearly as important as the size of the courage that is called on to meet it.
When you think about life it is sometimes the little things that get you down; the splinter in a finger, the blister on a heel or the flea on the dog. If you’re in the right frame of mind, little things can “do you in” as much as the larger incidents. We all have learned the power of the insistent “little things” as they persist in nagging and niggling at our self-control. How many times can you be stuck by the tiniest pin before you react? How many red, raw areas beneath surgical tape does it take to make you miserable? What degree of inflammation sets your nerves on fire? If you’re the patient on the fuzzy end of that irritant, you are the one who feels it; not someone else. The size of the pain is not as important as the size of your courage to deal with it.
In the beginning, pain of any size is a shock, a surprise and usually catches us off our guard. After you’ve lived with pain for many years, your reaction is a bit different. You begin to qualify it. Is it going to last? What did I do, if anything to bring it on? Am I bright enough to remember not to do that again? Was it a freak of nature and just one of those things or is it something I need to see the doctor about? Is it part of a pattern and is it related to something else that is going on in my body or life at this time? We have so many questions with every incident; every assault by nature brings its own search for cause and effect. Our minds are always working as we look for a way out, around or simply through the pain. The only mind that isn’t doing this is the one that is sedated into fuzziness via too many pain pills, woozy from too much drink or peering over the rim of sanity.
Most of us adapt and react differently when we’ve lived with pain for a very long time. We often become tired of droning on and complaining because it doesn’t really change anything. It can also be incredibly tiresome to whine and grouse about life’s vagaries and misery. No matter how you dress it up, it still hurts. No matter how many people offer some form of sympathy, it still hurts. No matter how many of our words try to explain how it feels, it’s impossible to fully relate how it feels to another human; and if you could would it take away your own pain?
The pain is constant in many of our lives and we have learned to put it away, in its own place. I confess there are days I forget all about the pain for a few hours. Then I do too much around the house or lift a bag of groceries that’s too heavy, or when I get into a ghastly mood and just can’t take it anymore. The mindset doesn’t care if it’s a broken toe, an amputated extremity or fresh surgery. You can manage to be miserable with each, complain with each event or you can look forward to getting it behind you and back to that part of your life that brings you pleasure, fulfillment or gratification.
When we allow the pain to become too large, it moves in and becomes not just the elephant in the room but also the gorilla in the bed, the monster sitting on the refrigerator and the snake traveling across the floor. There are thousands of ways for the human body to hurt. There are equally as many ways for us to react to that pain. It’s often a balancing act as the fulcrum of pain balances against the means at our disposal to adapt, overcome and persevere. Size matters only when we let it become too large. The size of a forest fire, naturally, requires more flame-out or water than a fire from a candle flame but thankfully, we aren’t trees, candles or structures. We are not inanimate objects that are required to follow the rules of physics; no, we are magical creatures of indefinite depths of spirit and strength. The size of the assault is negligible when compared to the power of the human spirit. Do you remember the TERMINATOR films? In the second TERMINATOR film there’s a robot that is indestructible. He’s chopped up and he transforms back into what he was. He’s burned and melted and he regroups and walks toward the camera. He’s shot, he’s rolled over and he endures. That’s us. We are just made of a different substance. We are not made from some polymer, metal or kryptonite. We are better.
The trick is to learn how to tap into that strength that is of inexhaustible supply within us. The human spirit is most beautifully exemplified in the tale of the Phoenix. We suffer and we arise. We metaphorically die in the ash heap of life and we rise from the refuse and residue. The value and courage that is possible within the depths of the human spirit is unlike any other that has ever existed. History teaches us that mankind/womankind can be tortured and heal..
As long as we can dream, envision and create we will overcome. As long as we can love, give and receive affection and add enrichment to another person, we will survive. As long as we can hope, we will live. I challenge you today, my friend, if your pain has become too large and looms over all of your life, call upon your human strength and that indomitable human spirit that lies within you. If you’re without hope, find a pen and paper and make a list of five things you want to change in your life. Look at that list each day. If you need to revise it, then do that. Plant those desired changes in your mind. Let them brew, stew and blossom deep within your subconscious. When you think of something to add to the list, add it. If something on the list loses value for you, draw a line through it.
It doesn’t really matter who has the most pain. So often we compare ourselves to others in a childish manner. Why do we do this? Are we looking for a reward for being the most miserable of all? So, what do you get if you win? Forget that way of thinking. Go back to the list and open the box, tear open that envelope and find new hope within your own heart and spirit. Have you ever seen those pictures that require a great deal of viewing for you to find the hidden images within the picture? This is similar. It may take awhile for you to look at the whole picture, turn it many different ways in your mind and find the hidden possibilities in life as it is now; but in order to get started you have to dare to dream, to expect and to look at your pain-filled life in a new way. The size of your hope, your vision and your imagination is all that matters if you are to have a fulfilling life.
THE PHOENIX IN MY SOUL
There’s a Phoenix deep within me
It lives within my soul,
I’m not certain how I know this
But it’s there, to make me whole.
When the torments of this body,
Become too much to bear,
I’m enveloped by depression
With a mood too dark to care.
I care not if the sun sets or rises,
I care not if it’s rainy or dry.
Despair darkens my life
And all I can do is cry.
Sometimes it’s the pain, itself,
Or pain brought on by others.
Ingratitude, ignorance, indifference
From a friend, a spouse or brother.
I know it’s difficult for some,
To know what I live each day.
They can’t see beyond themselves,
Self-interest blinds their way.
I recall the tale of the Phoenix
A bird that lived 500 years
Before throwing himself on a pyre
To be consumed, so it appears.
Once soaring like an eagle
Aloft, upon the wind,
It’s said he did plunge and dive
Determined to descend.
When his life is lost in ashes
And he is at an end,
A new Phoenix then arises
In full glory doth ascend.
My life is not enchanted,
I fear it’s all too real.
Every morning on waking,
Same old Achilles heel.
Only in dreams can I forget
Or soar above the Parthenon
Where I’m pain free and strong
Then I fall to earth each dawn.
It’s always there, waiting,
This aching, this disease, this demise
As I argue out loud to my Maker
“Dear God, let me be wise.”
It’s not enough to survive each day
As challenging as that is,
I aspire to find hidden places
While I walk the precipice.
Some days the pain pulls me down,
I feel myself start to descend
Then I recall that brave Phoenix
And find the power, somehow, to transcend.
I know that I can rise above,
Exceed, perhaps, excel.
When I’m feeling very brave
I turn and face this hell.
I look it in the face and say,
“This is not what I desire,
This is not what I had planned,
Guess it’s time to hit that pyre.”
I succumb, and let it take me down.
I cry, I shout, I grieve,
Into the fires of my pain
I find the courage to believe.
Thank you, dear Phoenix,
For the fine example you set.
This pain, it can’t consume me
The pain can’t get me, yet.