Today, I reclaim the art of enjoying my life. I have given pain a lot of room. In a way, I have moved over for it.
But today I will do one thing I love to do. Because I would rather include pain than not do it at all, even if it's only for a brief time and even if pain has to come with me.
Today, in doing one thing I love, I reclaim my life.
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.
It’s a common response to chronic illness and pain to hold ourselves in and to close down, both physically and emotionally.
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?
We often feel our least lovable when we’re in pain. This is understandable. We aren’t able to participate in life in the ways we’d like to and sometimes we just feel too physically awful to be able to express ourselves in loving ways. Since our bodies feel bad in general, we often feel bad about ourselves too and we don’t always feel able to respond to others in an open and loving manner.
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
These things that we formerly took for granted now become ways of giving and receiving love in small, but potent ways. Instead of giving up on loving ourselves and loving others because we believe we have so little to offer right now, we can find ways to include love in our lives, even while we’re still in pain...especially while we’re still in pain, because this is when we need love the most.
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.
Image: Courtesy Pixabay
Welcome to The Pain Companion Blog! Reflections and sound advice on living with chronic pain - a peaceful way station on the path to greater well being.
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© 2015-2018 Sarah Shockley and thepaincompanion.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sarah Anne Shockley and www.thepaincompanion.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.