By Julia W. Prentice
I used to have a piece of paper mounted on cardboard with the words, “Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.”
It was stuck to my monitor on my desk and then floated around my office space. I am not sure where I got it from, but it traveled with me for many years. I needed that reminder as I stumbled along my winding Buddhist path. Pain has drifted through my life, showing up as physical, spiritual, emotional and psychological. I am no stranger to it, but, oh man, do I hate when it appears again!
After four arduous medical procedures in two months, today I am in pain. Pain in my leg, my knee, my thigh and my heart. I have these physical pains but the real issue is psychological pain induced by my desire to make it all disappear. The emotional pain rings a bell in my mind when the pain throbs, and the bell says, “I want it to go away.”
There’s impatience for healing, frustration when I am incapacitated, and despair at achieving wellness again. Every time that bell rings, I listen and then suffering follows. This is human nature, to focus on the what ifs, the past choices and future possibilities–however dire they could be in my current mind’s eye.
Could there be another way?
For me currently, wellness can only be achieved in my mind. Physical wellness will come, but for now it isn’t here. The goal is to be in the moment, suspended in time where there is no pain, frustration or other emotion.
I seek this wellness by meditation, often listening to guided recordings. I share with others via phone and internet, explaining what is going on. I don’t want to overburden, but often I am thanked for being honest during this time. I write about what is happening now, which cuts down the pain.
I share with others to avoid the pitfalls of self-pity, self-judging and the desire to isolate. And sometimes wellness requires distraction by watching mindless videos and TV shows to drown out the bell.
The inevitability is that pain will come, again and again.
What I do with it is mine. Will I let the suffering begin? Will I listen to the bell and become the Pavlovian dog? Or will I carve out just one moment–a moment to breathe, use my senses and drop-in?
I am sure as I continue to wander along the path, I will at times choose one or the other. There is no right or wrong, just choice, and remembering that little piece of paper that used to be stuck on my monitor. Though the paper is lost, I still hear the message in my mind–hopefully louder than that little bell.
From the Connecticut originally, Julia now lives in North Carolina, US with her soulmate and their furry companion. Past careers include ASL interpreting, preschool teaching and tutoring. Currently she is a passionate Peer Supporter of persons with mental health challenges, a certified W.R.A.P. Facilitator and Certified Peer Specialist. In her spare time she’s a writer, knitter, crafter and singer. Her poetry is published in seven books, and several blogs.
Editor: Amy Cushing