Tag Archives: awake

Now, this is going to hurt a little bit

I’ve never been very good at this part. I have no tolerance for pain, little sufferance for suffering . I was the child who needed the lollipop before I got the shot. Anaesthetic is my favorite Triple Word Score move in Scrabble.  Raised on ibuprofen and OxyContin, discomfort has always been optional in this life. Mostly, it’s an option I’ve not taken.

But for two weeks, I have been sick with the flu. The real influenza, not some 24-hour bug.  As it turns out, the real flu is a debilitating and painful viral infection. What’s worse, it’s one of these $%^&*  Character Building Learning Experiences.

When you are in your latest-possible-forties and have the flu, you get limited sympathy for your troubles. Friends are sorry and offer advice, but they generally expect you to have grown accustomed to a few physical aches and twinges by now.  For a discomfort as temporary as the flu, they expect you to buck up and carry on.

Learning to bear suffering with grace is so … grownup. So dignified. So beyond my ken. Apparently, learning this discipline is part of my transition to this new place in life. Full womanhood includes accepting discomfort and bearing pain while staying focused on my intentions to be  awake and alive.

It seems that to be grown up is to know the difference between analgesia and anesthesia. It’s fine to slug down NyQuil for the flu, but there are no Band-Aids for the boo-boo of discovering a parent is losing his ability to communicate. There are no fizzy tablets that will ease the pain of a sibling’s sudden, but not unexpected, death. It’s undeniably mature to wake up to that old, familiar ache in the ankle or a hip and realize that this morning’s need for pain relief isn’t  a temporary situation, it’s the way you’ll wake up for the rest of your life . Difficulty  becomes an old friend we can count on to show up every day.

Pain is part of the way life is. Its presence does not diminish joy, unless I let it. We’ll never be friends, pain and I, but I’m resigned to learn to walk alongside it. Ignore me if I limp and whine for a little while. I’m only beginning  to learn how to take this in stride.

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Witness

Last week there was an attempted  political assassination in Tucson, Arizona.  This event opened   debate about the tone of public discourse, and whether violent political metaphors contributed to this violent act.

Like most folks, I had my share of things to say about this. Some of the statements I made were thoughtful; others were just part of the feast of avid conjecture.

But I was particularly surprised by the opinion of someone who advised me to stay neutral. She thought I should withhold judgment about whether the violent rhetoric that passes for political speech was responsible for this bloody act. She counseled me to draw no conclusions and to refrain from analysis until all the details about the individual shooter were known.

She asked me to stop making sense of what I see.

But I am old enough to have seen some things. I have lived in this country during other eras of violent rhetoric, and I have lived through its aftermath. I have watched verbal assaults escalate into political  violence before.  I have watched the illusion of comfort and neutrality go up in smoke. I have seen my city burn.

I don’t need a TV news analyst to tell me that there are a thousand reasons why someone might want to kill a member of Congress. I don’t need a police investigation to know there are as many reasons for shooting eighteen people in a Safeway as there are civilians who feel a need to own handguns. I know that a single shot fired by an “unstable” person is no more an individual act than is a riot, and I know that his bullet seeks to kill something greater than the human being within its sights.

So, I am surprised to find my journey toward  awakeness includes discovering things to which I am not open.

I’ve grown comfortable being my own witness, staying open to the claims of others while being deeply rooted in what I have experienced and what I have  seen.

Being a grown-up means believing myself when I’ve seen something happen enough times that I can call it by name.  I am old enough to be the author of my own history.  I am strong enough to have compassion for folks who get uncomfortable at the way the world looks when seen through my eyes without disbelieving myself.  I am learning to take myself seriously as a witness

A Merciful New Year

 

It’s the fourth day of 2011, and I’ve  already learned  something new this year about this intentionality business.

Somehow, I have confused being intentional with being positive and enthusiastic and having a good attitude all the time. I’m beginning to understand that these are different things.

Taking an intentional stance, about aging or anything else, is about making choices. I intend to live this year with my eyes wide open. I intend to walk toward this new threshold, perhaps  trembling with awe,  but fully awake. Consciously placing the decision to be awake and fully alive at the center of my every day changes the choices I see as available, and it shapes my behavior. What I am doing on purpose gives me resiliency and new purpose to my days.

But that doesn’t mean it’s always going to be pretty.

There are days like today, when I have a cold. My work goes slowly and I’m really tired. All I can manage is to be kind to others while I struggle to get through.

Perhaps I am awakening to  mercy: the  intention to  forgive myself for  the smallness of my being today. Growing older seems to demand that I practice this intention more and more.

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