We try to protect our bodies by pulling inward, contracting physically, and holding ourselves in a tighter, more safe-feeling space. And, because our emotional selves are already overwhelmed and overloaded, we tend to contract psychologically and emotionally as well, living in an ever-smaller space inside ourselves.
What's Love Got to Do With It?
As a result, we may become less and less available emotionally to our partners, our children, and our friends. We may also close down to ourselves and our own emotional needs.
I think, despite the challenges, it’s important to find ways to return to love even in the midst of living with painful conditions, and to not cut ourselves off from loving gestures and loving exchanges.
We might have to learn to give and receive love a little differently, and maybe in different sizes and at different levels than we’re used to. Opening a door, cooking a meal, lending a hand, and offering a ride all become more important than they ever used to be.
Even The Smallest Gestures Count
We might look for the small ways that we can extend ourselves lovingly to others, even if it’s only a thank-you, a smile, a brief phone call, or a touch on the arm. We can gratefully acknowledge the small gifts that come back to us: the loving gestures, the helpfulness, and the caring attention, no matter how small. It all counts. Just as we still count.
We may need to withdraw at times for rest and healing, of course, but now is not the time to pull away from life completely. Now is the time that we need, more than ever, to include ourselves in the loving exchanges of life, no matter how small they may be.
Living smaller may be necessary when we're dealing with chronic conditions and chronic pain, but we may still find expressions of love that are meaningful to us and to the important people in our lives within those limitations. If we can do that, we may discover that these small moments are that much sweeter because they are even more precious and nourishing than ever before, and because, in very real ways, they take us beyond our pain by expressing who we truly are in our hearts.
Sarah Anne Shockley has lived with nerve pain from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome since 2007. She co-produced and directed Dancing From the Inside Out, a multi-award winning documentary on AXIS Dance Company (integrating wheelchair and able-bodied dance). She is the author of The Pain Companion (New World Library, June, 2018), The Light at The Center of Pain, Living Better While Living With Pain, and 30 Days of Living Better While Living With Pain.