Thursday, January 18, 2007

Some Thoughts

My bad day yesterday had absolutely nothing to do with turning 37. I don't think 37 is all that old, and as far as it goes, I'm looking forward to the decades that are ahead in my life, should God choose to grant them to me.

What's really been crowding my thoughts and feelings lately has been this feeling of burden. The burden is chronic illness. What does it mean to my life to have three overlapping and exacerbating chronic conditions that affect me every day? And today I'm NOT going to be polite and brush it off, so as not to bore my blog readers with it...again. Today I'm going to be honest.

I've been grieving. Grieving the loss of dreams, grieving the loss of hopes, the loss of energy, the loss of plans, the loss of being the way I wish I could be. Grieving the frequent pain and the frequent lack of enenrgy to do more than the bare minimum each day.

And there is no where to turn with this grief, and it's palpable every day. Some days are like a fog and I'm just surrounded by this deep, deep sadness that pulls me down. And I force myself to reach out. I force myself to be kind to my children. I force myself to get back to my routine. These things become the rungs in the ladder of my salvation. But it's so forced.

And sometimes when I'm in a safe place, I cry. And it's not that I'm wallowing in self pity, although there is that constant temptation. No, this feels more like grief. I'm a year older and what have I to show for it? All the hopes and dreams that others have had for my life are not coming into any sort of fruition. All the hopes and dreams that I may have had for my life are dead by the roadside, sitting in the ever more distant past, left behind.

And I feel so very very incredibly alone. I KNOW others suffer. I can name at least a hand full of people that I personally know that also are in chronic pain and worse than mine no doubt. (How can pain be measured, though?) But we sure don't talk about it very much. And perhaps that is best. Because I would never ever want to be in a conversation where it becomes a comparison: My suffering versus your suffering. Because thoughts and words like that are destructive of the human experience we each have.

And yet I do it to myself all the time. When I'm having a bad day, I think to myself "Yes, but what about all the people in X? THEY have it much worse than you...(and they probably do), so therefore yours doesn't count." It's that "yours doesn't count", or that "mine doesn't count" that is killing me and not allowing breathing room...grieving room.

And so how does this become prayer? Can the very grief become prayer? Can the loss become prayer? Can this little hemmed-in life be an offering, an oblation? Can it? I want it to be, and I don't know if it can be. It's just so little.


Laura said...

I'm not a theologian, but maybe the prayer is in the fight...the struggle. Something like wrestling with an angel ("I will not let go until you bless me") and perhaps not so very different from carrying a cross...but different enough to be different.

But as I said...I'm not a theolgian and I'm sure someone wiser than I will have a better answer.

Margi said...

Perhaps it is good that it is forced because otherwise it could become habit and holiness cannot be practiced or acquired unthinkingly. One of the English puritans, Richard Sibbes, said that death is only a grim porter to a beautiful palace, and perhaps pain is kind of the same, perhaps it slowly opens up something greater than the things we regret. On the other hand, I may be waffling but it's what I tell myself a lot. Really a lot.

Ruth said...

I know that trap of: I can't be sad or frustrated because others have it worse than I do. I think everyone has challenges, some visible and some not, but even if others have it worse than you, it doesn't diminish the reality of what you're going through.

And yes, it can be an offering. It's what you have to give. Jesus praised the woman who gave everything she had, even though it wasn't much, over those who had plenty and just gave the leftovers.

Susan said...

You know Alana, you own your feelings and pain. Dont compare yourself to others. It doesnt do any good to tell yourself that you arent suffering as much as another.
I am Christinas mother, the lady "girl" with lupus.
I also have had some major health issues. I had a stroke at 32.
I still live with the effects today, 25 years later..
I only tell you this to convey that if you need help with your feelings you could maybe go to a grief counselor. There is more than one type of grief.
Its not something to try to get "over" but something to get through.
As I have told Christina many times, and told myself, one day, one hour, one minute at a time.
Be kind first to yourself:)
Also, dont be ashamed of your feelings or your illness. It doesnt really define you, you define it.
Hope this helps.

Meg said...

To answer the questions in your last paragraph: Yes. You can grieve for the loss of them. They brought you this far. But ultimately, it was God Who brought you this far, and can bring you farther yet; but those tools have taken you as far as they can, and now He asks you to set them aside and come to Him with nothing more than the pain and the lack of energy and the dreams and hopes and plans that died stillborn. Because ultimately, when you acknowledge that they are gone, you put them into the hands of God. You entrust them to HIm. And He takes them and makes them into something unimaginably beautiful. Maybe you can't see it. But He does.

Anonymous said...

I have been following your blog for a few weeks now and I have much empathy for you and your situation. I am also in my thirties with several chronic pain conditions. In fact, the cure for some of my pain actually is the cause of other illnesses...and so this is how I live for the moment. I too also have high expectations of my home and other areas in my life. I have truly come to believe that God is trying to let me know that I am NOT in control. After many years of trying to exert control over my situation with schedules, routines, and sheer bruteful willpower, I have finally learned that perhaps the answer lies within just living moment to moment. This is where I now find my joy. A moment of tickling my daughter in her desparately unorganized room, a walk and laugh with a friend and then tea even if my kitchen has not made it through morning cleaning, a non-homemade dinner with my husband...And I do grieve - ALOT. I think all of this, in its own way, is prayer. A prayer of joy for the single tiny moments I forget my pain, a prayer of thankfulness for my family and child, a prayer of yielding when I can step outside my drive to organize and schedule myself to death!!

I wish you moments of joy today, and seconds of happiness. May your suffering be to the glory of God and supply you with abudent compassion for yourself and others. God bless you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Yes to all of your questions.

I'm so sorry that you are grieving. Allow yourself the sadness.

carmen said...

Alana, I was that anonymous comment - the last one. For some reason, my name didn't take.

gemma said...

Just read the long comment by anon regarding seconds of joy and I must join in. In the past 6 years I have lost every member of my immediate family, one after the other and so I know grief and loss of that sort. I am over 60 and know the grief of years wasted. I still, however, know true bliss and that peace that surpasses all understanding. The bliss or joy is experienced only in nanoseconds but can be recaptured at will forever. Seven years ago I was making my bed and the thought occurred to me that right at that moment everyone I knew and loved were well and safe as was I. That warm second of total peace is always with me and I make it a point to find another in every day that passes. I also fall to ground and sob from time to time and cringe when I look back over the years and focus on some misstep. Life is really hard. Thank God that we are never alone because He is with us and will never abandon us.

bjm said...

In seminary I took a class with instruction by a catholic priest. He made a comment about letting our pain and suffering be engulfed in the pain and suffering of Christ so that it becomes redemptive suffering. (This is not as well said as he said it but maybe you get the idea.) Anyway, I am wondering if a similar thought is found in Orthodox theology.

alana said...

Oh yeah. That is there in Orthodox theology. And I do believe that/practice it. We all have hard days now and again.

Michelle Melania said...

Saying a prayer for you tonight.

BTW- I wanted to tell you today, but didn't get the chance: You looked gorgeous today and really slender and classy :)

alana said...

Thank you, Michelle!