Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Eight Lessons Learned From Pain

My sister said, "Well, if the doctor had just found out what was wrong in 2012 you could have avoided all this pain.  I didn't say it but my first thought was. "But then I would have missed the lessons."I knew there were lessons to be learned from this experience and I didn't want to miss them. I even said little prayers from time to time when the pain was particularly bad or the lack of mobility extremely frustrating.  "Please don't let me miss the lesson in this." This is what I learned.

1. Be Grateful. Pain gives faith a whole new meaning and it is gratitude. In the hospital I practiced gratitude for all the things I take for granted. Simple things like being able to get out of bed by myself, or walk unassisted, even going to the bathroom became an activity for which to be grateful. 

2. I am not alone. Pain and the isolation of rehabilitation can be depressing. But friends showed up at my bedside, or sent cards that made me laugh, and called to check on me. Friends sending prayers and positive thoughts helped. When I saw my name on the church prayer list or on a FB post I knew prayers and positive energy were coming my way.  

3. It is okay to rest. Psalms 46:10 says, "Be still, and know that I am God." In that stillness, that rest there is a space for the divine that would not have existed without the pain. Rest is also essential for healing.

4. Self care is vital. Mark 12:31 says, "Love your neighbor as yourself." We sometimes miss the, "love yourself" part of that verse.  I cannot take care of anyone else if I do not take care of myself.  Part of taking care of myself is deciding that I am stronger than the pain.

5. Listen when others want to share their pain.  I think this might be the hardest lesson.  We all carry our own pain or the pain of someone we love.  My experience is that people just want to be heard or want you to know that they understand what you are going through.  Listen.

6. Be kind. Matthew 7:12 records what we often call the Golden Rule, "In everything do to others as you would have others do to you."  There are good Samaritans and angels everywhere.  They are sometimes disguised as doctors, nurses, physical therapists or food service workers. Even my neighbor, who works at the hospital, showed up every morning, before work with Starbucks. If I am grumpy and impatient or unkind I will miss the good they are trying to do for me.

7. My attitude is the most important factor I bring to my healing.  I confess was scared.  Scared of the surgery, the pain and the recovery. So I had my sister, Hilary make me a pink tutu.  When physical therapy got me on my feet I wore that tutu with my pink boa, pink polkadot socks and a tiara. Not only did I cheer myself up but I cheered up everyone who saw me. 

8. See other perspectives.  Being "disabled" even for the short time I was, has given me more empathy for the people walking slowly or being pushed in a wheelchair. 

I take faith for granted when I feel good, but lying in a hospital bed in pain and dependent on others for my most basic bodily functions required faith. Faith in myself, faith in my care givers and faith in my creator.  It is blessing that God gives our magnificent brains the ability to forget the pain, but I hope I never forget the lessons learned from the pain.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Not All Surprises Are Good!

Surprise, there is something wrong with you!

5/4/15 Riding down in the elevator from my hip replacement pre-op apportionment, I got a call.  The conversation went something like this:

ME: "Hello."
HER: "Paula, this is Dr. D*****."
ME: "Oh hi." (but in my mind, Oh S#^*) I mean getting a phone call directly from you doctor is never a good thing.  
HER: "Based on the results of your last pap, I have made an appointment for you with a surgeon on Friday.  Can you make it?"
ME: (Not in my head) "Oh S#^*!!!"

Surprise, we messed up!

Back up from the story above to June 1, 2014. My first book Prostitutes, Virgins and Mothers: Questioning Teachings About Biblical Women was published. It was and is a dream come true.  Five months after publication I went to the American Academy of Religion / Society of Biblical Literature annual meeting, in San Diego.  It was another dream come true.  My book was to be at the IPG booth in the exhibit hall.  When I got to the booth I had another "Oh S#^*" conversation,

HER: "I have been dreading this moment."
ME: "Why, you don't even know me?"
HER: "I recognize you from the picture on your book. Your book is not here."
ME: (Head hanging) "This is the most anti-climatic moment of my life. Why?"
HER: "The woman who was charged with sending the books quit and didn't tell anyone she hadn't sent them."
ME: "I have books in my car."
HER: "Well, if you want to go get them we can sell them and send you replacements."

So, in my cute, new, black wedgies I walked back to my hotel, got a heavy bag of books out of my car and walked back to the booth. Have you ever been to the San Diego Convention Center? It is miles long. Something went seriously wrong with my hips.  I had been having a bit of discomfort but now I was in serious pain. I left the meeting early because I could not walk.  The good news is IPG sold out of my book.

Surprise, do you want the good news or the bad news?

Fast forward to January 2015 and my book wins a gold medal from Illuminations Book Awards. I go for a long walk with God and say, "Thanks God for this award! This confirms for me more than anything that I am on the path to which you have called me." I wrote a thank you note to the awards director and related this story. He said, " I agree, you're on a divine path with their book."

I may be on a divine path but I could not walk the day after my walk with God. What ever happened at the AAR / SBL meeting happened again and I wasn't even wearing my cute, black wedgies.   That brings me to the elevator story above and the reason I have not posted a blog in about a year. Pain is a great distractor but if you pay intention there are lessons to be learned. More about the lessons learned from pain,  next week.