Why on earth would I choose pain to be grateful for? Well, I do agree that it is not something I enjoy. I certainly do not wish it on anyone who is suffering it constantly like so many people I know. It is also a curse. But like so many things that are a curse, it can also be a blessing. Or so my physical medicine doctor at Kaiser would have you believe.
I have been suffering severe, mobility limiting pain in my right hip and leg eminating from some compressed lumbar discs in my lower back. These discs compress on the siatic nerve causing a range of discomfort from a dull throbbing ache to sever flashes of pain that brought tears to my eyes. Thank God (gratitude) it has begun to subside of late meaning healing is going on. I have been able to walk greater distances without severe pain and sleep better at night. But I have to say it has been a real pain in the a**.
Now back to what the doctor was saying yesterday when I visited this one for the first time. My primary care doctor gave me a steriod and "an opioid analgesic and antitussive" which has a list of side effects that scared me more than the prospect of living with pain. I didn't take them even though I filled the prescription and don't rule out the possibility of taking them in the future should the pain return and be unbearable. Unbearable is the operative word. The doctor explained the pain I was visited with as "nature's way of telling me to stop what I was doing and take care of myself."
Seems nature could have just whispered in my ear, "slow down', but no, she had to knock my socks off. But I didn't stretch before exercising. I didn't warm up before hopping on my bike. I didn't pay attention to how I was moving when I was working in the yard. Activities I normally enjoy without thinking, were forbidden (for a time) to me. That is pain's gift. Thus the gratitude. It truly is nature's way of saying care of that wonderful gift God gave you: your body.
Now I know a lot of pain is visited on people undeservedly. Pain's gift to me in this case is empathy. I literally "feel their pain" to paraphrase and reapply the words of Bill Clinton. For that, too, I am grateful.
I guess what I am saying here is that living in gratitude means finding something to be grateful for in everything we experience and encounter. It can be a tough thing to do...especially at 3am in the dark when cannot get comfortable or excape the inflamation of your nerves and muscles who seem to have turned on you. But there are lessons to be learned even then, like not taking your health for granted.
I'd rather not learn about pain management. I am fortunate, indeed blessed, not to have had to go there. Maybe someday I will. If I do, I hope grace will help me find a reason to be grateful even in that. In the meantime, thank you, pain, but all you have taught me.
Rob McMurray, self described muser extraodinaire.