Never Leave Empty
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
This morning I was desperate. I haven't slept for longer than two hours in a night for weeks and weeks. Pain has been too intrusive for me to be able to maintain sleep. Today, I feel wrecked....felt so exhausted that I reasoned, if I could just lie down with my kitty at my feet to the silence of the falling snow ...I just HAD to sleep.... and would probably sleep for two days, as I've done when in a similar state in the past. I am tired enough to die. Tired enough that death sounds appealing.
The problem is that I'm also in enough pain to die; or to want to...And this morning, my pain, after a long long night of it, began to cause a sense of desperation...the kind of desperation that fantasizes about extreme measures...anything ...ANYTHING which will grant me a little bit of relief...or even...permanent relief. And you know where I'm going with that...I don't need to elaborate.
This is how I was thinking. I felt like tearing my hair out. Like banging my head against a wall...Like.....well you get the idea.
I have a grudge against pain medication. It rarely gives me any significant relief...and I have a body that requires such enormous dosages of it, that to take them would be to risk respiratory failure. My pain doctor insists that I need to take very high doses of some extremely potent medications around the clock...to keep the pain from getting to levels that are unmanageable. And I have refused to comply. I have legitimate reasons for my refusal. It is not because they make me "dopey" or tired...because they don't. It's not because I have an addictive personality....because I don't . It's because I know that after a while of taking them, their efficacy fades. And then it will be necessary to increase the doses or to switch to other drugs...to keep my body from becoming accustomed to them. And it becomes an endless chase. And I know from experience, it is a futile chase.
Because my pain is simply unmanageable.
So this morning...as I contemplated different options of how to get relief...NONE of them healthy. NONE of them allowing me to open my eyes to a tomorrow, I knew that desperate times were calling for desperate measures. And in order to prevent myself from doing something foolish and irrevocable, I had to concede to doing something I don't like doing. So I took two types of pain pills; a double dose of one of them. I knew without a doubt that it wouldn't kill me and I knew without a doubt that it was my only option.
That was about an hour and a half ago. I still have pain. It' s still pretty bad pain...pain that I'm sure most people would find distressing. But it is LESS pain. The bloody edge of it is gone. And no, I'm not even faintly inclined to sleep. Too bad. You would think that a loving God, when he challenged me with the type of pain that I have, would not have also given me a body that is un-phased by pain relief measures.
And as I swallowed my medicine this morning, an old hymn came onto my mp3 player....and the first verse goes like this:
Be still, my soul: the Lord is on your side.
Bear patiently thy cross of grief or pain;
leave to your God to order and provide;
in every change God faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: your best, your heavenly friend
through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
and my heart echoed with the injunction to "leave to my God or order and provide..." and then rejoiced in the promises of his faithfulness which will extend all the way to the joyful end of my life. And the end of my life WILL be joyful. EVen if it were to happen today...at the "young" age of 48. It would be joyful not only because it would bring an end to this intolerable pain, but also because of my destination...when I cross the doorway from this realm to the next.
And then I picked up a book I bought yesterday for my Kindle which I've been reading and delighting in: "One Thousand Gifts; a Dare to live Life Fully" by Ann Voskamp. The book is poetically written and deeply beautiful in the truths it unwraps as it describes the authors' path through a life shaped by early tragedy and through her journey in discovering what it means to LOVE your Life...and to live it in such a way that, no matter when it ends, its end will be joyful. Replete. Filled with a satisfaction that is so satiated with joy that it will be okay to leave it and move on to the next phase...for this portion of it will have lacked nothing. And the path to such repletion is gratitude. Gratitude for God's graces and gifts...as well as for the wounds which inevitably accompany life on this broken earth.
And this gratitude is what enables us to complete our salvation; or rather, to experience its fullness.
I thought about this, now having arrived at a level of pain relief that allowed deep thought about anything. It means to be grateful, not only for the relief of pain...but for the pain itself. It means to savor the taste of our food...and to fully be satiated by it, whether we eat large or small quantities. And this only happens when we are conscious, not only of the blessing of it...but when there is an understanding that loss, that suffering is an inherent part of this world also, for now. And it allows us to seek, and to receive the graces of God that forge a pathway through it.
In the book I've been savoring, there is a quote by Sarah Ban Breathnach which says:
"Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world."
I want to live my life with reverence. I don't want to miss the flavor of a dish which I or someone else has lovingly prepared. And I don't want to miss the flavor of my life, which God has lovingly prepared for me to enjoy and to live. And when we get caught into a frenzy or panic caused by suffering and our desire to terminate it or to limit it, we also miss out on the many good things around us which we could be experiencing as well as the pain. God has crafted into the pain and challenges of my life, lessons and blessings as well. He has given me people that love me, the beauty of the snow falling outside my window, the purring warmth of my cat at my feet...I don't want to miss any of these things in my frenzy to avoid the pain which may accompany them. Pain is unavoidable in this life. If we seek to avoid, we will lose, and miss out on things we were meant to experience.
God, teach me contentment and gratitude in every circumstance of my life. Help me not to miss the savoring of the bread and wine and the love of my friends which I will lose the moment I seek to avoid the suffering which is part and parcel of our human experience.
Help me never to walk away from a plate longing for more, with a sense of ingratitude or lack, but may each experience come with repletion and deep satisfaction. And this must, as I've said, begin with awareness.
I would highly recommend this book. It is teaching me a great deal of things: Things which were not inherent in the message of the book, but of which God is whispering to me in between the lines.