Tag Archives: Pain

It’s Midnight

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Well, I came to the city… I was running from the past

My heart was bleeding… And it hurt my bones to laugh

A month in ICU. Yes, a month. That’s a long time for someone to need state-of-the-art life support. If you’re the one in and out of the coma, that time might pass unnoticed. But if you’re the one standing bedside, eternity passes between flashes of a blinking light on a machine. When it’s your partner of 35 years, your life together flashes before your eyes.

So I asked my friend if she wanted to come hang out with me for a little… just to get some relief from fluorescent lighting. She said she did need to get out of the hospital, and didn’t want to be home alone if they called. She said that once they got through shift change, and he was stable for the night, she would come. That was 6:30 pm. She arrived just after 11:00.

Stayed in the city…No exception to the rules, to the rule

He was born to love me… I was raised to be his fool, his fool

With old friends, no matter how much time has lapsed between visits, there’s no need to catch up. We know who we are. We are there for each other in that moment. We listen when the other needs to decompress.

She described her month – surgical procedures that went on for days, the barrage of “survival odds” given as a regular update, the staff telling her how worried they were for him, and how, in delirium, he had cried out for her for hours one night when she wasn’t there.  And, after 36 days, how thankful she was to be still describing him in the present tense.

Walk that line, torn apart. Spend your whole life trying.

Ride that train, free your heart. It’s midnight up in Harlem.

I was glad she came. But exhausted the next day when she left. We had spent hours talking… questioning… hoping… praying. As we held hands and closed our eyes to say Good-bye, I felt all of the love I have for her and her family, and all of the light of my being move through us together as we asked for a miracle.

Afterward, I felt so drained from being so fully present for her that I needed to sleep. When I awoke, I went out for a walk around the pond. As I sat on the grass and kicked off my flip flops, I checked Facebook on my phone. Posted by a friend was a song – Midnight in Harlem. His suggestion was to let it “blend with you.”

I came to the river… And I took a look around

There were old man’s shoes. There were needles on the ground.

No more mysteries, baby. No more secrets, no more clues.

I took a deep breath and exhaled as the guitar started to twang and the audience cheered. The cymbals shivered as the railroad rhythm unfolded. My toe involuntarily started to keep the beat. As my shoulders rolled down and began to sway, I could feel the chords move me as the singer’s sultry voice reached out. I became aware of the grass under my feet and was transported to that summer concert amphitheater when the back-up singers stepped forward cooing.

The stars are out there.  You can almost see the moon.

The streets are windy and the subway’s closing down.

Gonna carry this dream to the other side of town.

The warm summer breeze moved the grasses and the tall cattails in the marsh – in harmony to the rifts in the song. I could smell the muddy earth mixing with the sweet honeysuckle nearby. Red-wing blackbirds whistled and sparrows flitted, dipped and dived over the shallow water. I closed my eyes and breathed in the music just as I breathed in the air around me. A shiver ran up my spine as I totally absorbed all of the energy from the beauty of this moment… nature, music, poetry…knowing that the art of life is in the living of it and that the spirit is infinite and will bring you back from the edge of sadness to again feel the joy.

Walk that line, torn apart

Spend your whole life trying

Ride that train, free your heart

It’s midnight up in Harlem.

Many thanks to the artists: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ubH7dLJJiE&list=FLv4ash5ErtR2eZM3Lu8PFxQ

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The Last Word on Suffering

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I had an epiphany. I finally understand the crucifixion.crucifixion

It happened like this.

Event One:

I was staying with a friend who told me that she had trouble sleeping. After several days, I asked if I could make an observation about her inability to find sleep. She said “No, I’d rather you didn’t. A lot of people have given me advice about insomnia, and they don’t understand my problem.” I answered “OK. That’s why I asked.” But she continued, and I listened in order to try to better understand her perspective. (I’m paraphrasing)

“Sometimes when there is an experience of deep trauma while you’re sleeping, and then fear of what might happen again, you just can’t let yourself be “asleep at the wheel.” I found her self-awareness and ability to communicate her exact dilemma inspired, but her inability to want to heal it perplexing.

Conclusion: We choose to hold onto our suffering and we believe no one else can understand it.

Event Two:

I watched a woman be a total bitch to a guy who liked her. She actually laughed at him. He turned to me – a person he’d met a few days before  –  and shrugged.  I shrugged back.

Conclusion: People deliberately cause other people to suffer through their unkindness.

Event Three:

I recently related a story about how I was humiliated as a kid. As I told my friend about it, I realized I could still feel the betrayal of people I had believed were my friends. It still brought my eyes to the verge of tears and my throat clenched as my breathing grew shallow. I finished my story in a cracking voice.  I was that kid again. I am that kid still.

Conclusion:  We are all children, wounded and not knowing why.

Catalyst: My 50th Birthday

As this big day approaches, and coincides with the arrival of my first grandchild, I’ve taken to reviewing the journey so far. More to the point, I’ve actually started a travel journal. So, as a good middle-aged adventurer, I’m creating my bucket list.  But, before I could start thinking of all the things I want to do, I needed to make a list of what I’ve already done (and thereby prove I am indeed ready to kick the bucket).

After logging the places I’ve been and cool stuff I’ve tried, I thought I should record other milestones of my life. What have I experienced that other people haven’t or won’t? What traumas have I survived?  I thought about that last one for a few minutes. It’s a long list. And I’m very grateful to say Everything. I’ve survived it all. Not only that, but I’m thriving, happy and at peace. I’m glad I focus on the good stuff because boy, I’d be totally sad if I just thought about all that other crap. And then I questioned the Universe – Why do people hold on to their pain? Why do they cause others to suffer? Why do we tolerate witnessing this abuse?

And the answer came:  Because they don’t get it. People feel alone in their pain yet are too afraid to share it. They even feel that no one could possibly understand their suffering.  They believe that their grief or loss or heartbreak is somehow unique. They insist on describing – sometimes in great detail – all of their symptoms. Often they repeat this list over and over until they believe that the symptoms are the cause of the pain. They hurt others and stand by as others are hurt to reassure themselves they are not the only one suffering.

So back to my original point – the crucifixion.

Bottom line: It seems to me that the only way Jesus could stop people from wallowing in their own ego-driven self-pity long enough to be kind to others and not perpetuate the inhumanity we inflict on each other was to set the bar.  It’s the all-time-great decision of one man to say:

“Look, no one’s suffering is bigger than mine. I totally can relate. Get over yourself. We all know pain. We all have witnessed cruelty. Once and for all, you haven’t suffered any more than anyone else, just differently. If you need an example, look at me. Been there. Done that. I get it. I might not know your particular brand of pain, but then again, you don’t know mine. Just know that we share it. Now stop it. Quit your fuckin’ bitchin’ and put on the big panties. Focus on all you are, have done, and have survived and go help someone else. You’ll be amazed how happy you’ll be when you just do that. Forever.”

Heads, I Win

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Heads

Suffer – to feel pain or distress

“SUFFER” That’s what it said, in caps, in neat print, enclosed in a box.

I was cleaning out some old stuff and came across a letter from my grandmother written to me when I was living away at college. In it, she told me about things going on at home, how much she missed my brother (living on the opposite coast), and wished that I would come home to visit soon. It was signed Love, Nana. But on the bottom of the last page in a small box was written: SUFFER.

Suffer? Was she suffering? Her note seemed typical, cheery enough. She couldn’t mean that she wanted me to suffer? Probably not.  Nana used a regular note pad for her letters, just the usual one that she kept next to her chair so she could have been checking the spelling of the word or something. But it seemed odd to me. Whatever.  It was just a word scribbled on the back of a piece of paper she used to drop me a quick note.

Every now and then though, the concept of suffering moves forward in my mind. People often talk about “putting an end” to suffering.  As a culture we want to eliminate suffering. Pope John Paul II said that there is meaning in suffering. Of course, Catholics are a martyr-loving bunch so I wasn’t surprised; however, when I considered that at the time he said this he was profoundly affected by Parkinson’s disease, it gave me pause. What meaning had he found in his own suffering? As a respected spiritual leader what purpose or lesson did he find in humanity’s suffering?

Recently, when I think about the years spent witnessing my mom’s neurological degeneration, I get it.

The meaning for me has changed.

Suffer – to endure, to bear, to withstand

Tails

My Facebook feed has recently been loaded with inspirational posts referring to “passion”… Find your passion… Follow your passion… blah, blah, blah. In looking at my own life, I have a lot of interests, but nothing I would call a clear “passion.” Don’t get me wrong, I have a very full and satisfying and happy life, but what is my passion? Hmmm.

So what is it? Not only what is my individual passion, but what is passion exactly and how does one go about finding it?

Me being me… I looked it up.

Passion —  an intense emotion, compelling feeling, enthusiasm, or desire for something.(from the Ancient Greek verb paskho – to suffer)

Wait. What?

The word is derived from “suffering,” which brings me back to my original question. What is suffering? And now, how could it be related to passion?

How could the one thing we want to eliminate in life be the same thing as what we’re supposed to pursue?

They seem to be the opposite sides of the same coin. To be passionate about something or someone is to focus your time and attention, your energy and spirit. And there’s the problem. Once we share so much of ourselves, we expose our hearts to suffering because the object of our passion can be taken from us.

Wait a minute. Maybe I’ve been looking at this all wrong. It’s not the passion that causes the suffering. It’s the loss of the passion. Well, there you have it. Something can only feel lost if you expect to get it back. Now I see. If I just give the passion away, I can’t possibly suffer any loss.

All together now.

Suffer – to endure, to bear or withstand + Passion – to give of ourselves without expectation

So how do we eliminate suffering AND live a passionate life?

Literally “Have the courage to love freely.”

So it’s not something I need to pursue after all. Finders-keepers.

The Ex marks the spot

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fire and water

A clenching fist of words reached within

And tore the fibers that bound your life to mine

Alone I am ready to begin

To fill the future’s unending depth of time.

The breath that once spoke from heart to heart

Fueling flames raging in a canyon of years

Scorched the earth and drove our love apart

Escaping on a river of Memory’s tears.

But distance now has changed the view of pain

From leaving me to waste and fear and cry

To knowing that it passes as All again.

Faith renews and Love will not deny.

Dark Night Falls

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Come on, he said, it’ll be good

Everyone’s goin’ from the neighborhood

Got the tickets, got some snacks

We’ll just hang out, we’ll just relax

Nestled into crowded seats

We held hands and felt complete

Flickering lights in the solemn dark

All at once came sudden sparks

Smoke and gas filled the air

Special effects meant just to scare?

No, not at all, this is for real

Stinging eyes, that burning feel

Hot shards tearing through my skin

Molten metal weaves within

Blood, tears and children’s screams

Chill my bones like ghastly dreams

Consuming what should have been fun

The maniac murders everyone

Like threatened spiders people crawled

Across the aisles the dead are sprawled

My head spins, painful throbbing

Sisters, brothers moaning, sobbing

All the while the silver screen

Plays on surreal fiction scene

And we all ask is this your will to do

No, God said, I’m crying too.