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Sunday, April 3, 2011


About 6 months ago, something happened in my lower spine.  I have learned that the official title for that event is "spinal stenosis."  Or: pinched nerve, sciatic nerve problem . . .  whatever.  It was difficult to ignore the pain that would appear without warning, but manageable.  Since then I have gone through months of pain and finally some treatment that resulted in physical therapy exercises. 

To experience pain that has a life of its own, comes unpredictably, lingers for hours, has given a new way for me to understand the "dailiness of life, " a phrase borrowed from the poet Randal Jarrell.   The constant presence of discomfort is to say the least, distracting.  I learn for this time in my life what ongoing pain does to one's psyche, one's body.  There have been many times of experiencing pain, but only for the short term.  This is big time, all time pain.  And I go through feelings of anger, frustration, self-pity, helplessness, despair . . . and wonder what tomorrow brings.  The one positive effect on me, however, makes up for the down sides of this time: hope.  I know, or I hope, that the next day will be better, less pain, and the next day less, and so on until I no longer have this constant companion, uninvited.  

What has made the difference for me, above all other efforts to deal with pain: writing.  Poems.  Blogs. Articles.  Reading: books, books, books.  Words lined up one after another, each one removing a piece of the pain.  Each one taking my spirits to what matters.  In all this is faith.  In all this is a redemptive element to pain, which becomes the awareness of what pain is like for others.  For others.  Those outside myself.

Determination to overcome and to find the remedy.  Determination to be able to stand for longer than 10 minutes.  Ability to walk for 45 minutes with Katie, as she studies the scents laid down in this meantime in those woods.  It is waiting for the time ahead.  For now, may I learn what this time has to teach me.

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