For almost a week now, a low pressure system gave rise to the most uncanny storm that pummeled our area. The dogs were going stir-crazy in the house. They did not understand the hazards we would encounter on a walk through the meadows and along the woods edge. But with wind gusts coming out of no-where at 65 miles per hour, it was simply too dangerous to venture out into the open for our daily outing.
So here we were, coped up in the house! And not much fun to be had, because of my chronic pain!
A pain that, when it comes on strong, puts me flat onto my back and prevents me from moving even a single muscle. I’ve come to think of this pain as “mine,” in the same way that Multiple Sclerosis has been “my MS” from the start. It was easy to acknowledge the disease from its beginning eighteen years ago, but its devastating intimacy has been a surprise.
At a time like this I give myself leave to curse this vicious disease. I ponder the nature of endurance and pain, but try as I might, I find no answer to the questions that arise from this kind of suffering. No answer to the question
What is its purpose?
How long can I endure?
But the suffering is a surprise, for I had known the gentler side of Multiple Sclerosis very well. My mother’s sister lived with it all her life. I saw how she slowly succumbed to a spreading vacancy in her brain. I had never known her as a highly functioning adult, for the disease invaded her at an early age – years before my birth.
When I was in my teens, I watched her slowly moving through her home, singing softly to herself. I remember her child-like face that seemed content. There was no mention of pain, no sign of mental anguish. There was only the ever-growing emptiness in her eyes.
So the question is this: “Which suffering is worse? ”
To be struck down in mid-life, having tasted adventure, hard work, and love?
To have been given a life that was never lived? A mind to be wasted by this unrelenting scourge?
And what of the pain itself?
Are the philosophers right when they say that pain is an intricate part of being alive? And if so, can I trust a Sufi teaching that says:
“Overcome any bitterness that may have come because you were not up to the magnitude of the pain that was entrusted to you.
Like the Mother of the World, who carries the pain of the world in her heart, each one of us is part of her heart, and therefore endowed with a certain measure of cosmic pain.”
And if that is true, can I learn to own the pain? Can I learn to lay in it and let its searing power transform me?