Taking a liberty with this one. My superpower would be the ability to disappear pain, not just for me, but for others too. That way, I would not have to go through what I write about here – and nor would anyone else.
We are all encouraged to live in the moment, aren’t we? To jettison the lure of the past and the fear of the future and to exist in an endless stream of moments of now.
To be honest, I have always had deep-seated reservations about this – have instinctively felt it to be an over-simplification of something much more profound. Why, I ask, give us the ability to muse over the past and think about the present if we are then told firmly not to delve into either?
I do live in the present. Very much so. And that present is continuous chronic pain. Every second of every minute. Every hour of every day. I am not worrying about the future, or remembering the past; I am trying, moment by moment, to calm the savage beast of physical pain – and to convince myself, as each millisecond arrives, that my quality of life justifies a continuation of same.
To be told, by on-line memes, that I am somehow complicit in my own agony, that I am choosing to experience it, makes a bad situation infinitely worse.
Why on earth do we do this, fellow humans? Tell those who are suffering that it is a personal choice; that they have the power to stop it right now; that, by implication, if the pain continues, THEY are failing in will power or imagination or rightness of mind?
It distresses me deeply. No one, other than the genuine masochist, has any wish to be in pain.
The world has embraced Mind over Matter with a thoroughness which is both amazing and frightening. Amazing because of course the mind is powerful and infinitely mysterious and it CAN create miracles. But, there is a flip side to this easy philosophy we have adopted in recent decades: If you are not able to triumph over matter with mind, does that make you a failure? Beyond the pale? Not worth saving?
Sometimes I fear that it does – and that your continuing misery, therefore, becomes entirely your own fault. This worries me at several levels. People like me, with intractable pain of no obvious origin, are accused of clinging on to it (WHY?!), being self-indulgent, self-pitying, self-absorbed, yada yada yada!
The truth is that the most powerful Mind over Matter mindset, applied twenty-four seven, does not, and cannot, guarantee success; if it did, my books would be selling in their millions by now – and I would be, for the most part, pain-free.
When I have said this in the past, some people have said that I obviously didn’t really believe that I could ever be successful! And I am quite sure there are people out in the world who, reading today’s post, will find me slightly pathetic and weak of will, who will think, ‘You are obviously not doing this right. You do not believe you can conquer the pain…’
I feel that I should not have to prove that I can fight pain with my mind, nor be condemned if positive thinking fails. I should not have to feel that I am a lesser being because I have, thus far, been unable to find a technique for vanquishing pain that works for me. God knows I am trying to get there. I am exercising, meditating at least once a day, eating sensibly and attempting to think beyond the moments of muscle-crunching, roiling misery which permeate my existence.
If we condemn others for ‘failing’ in this way, what does this say about the true nature, and place, of compassion in our world? Do we actually give it lip service only? Apply it only to those who, by their strength of will, are deemed to deserve it? If you don’t put up a brave fight in the face, say, of cancer, does this mean that you deserve to die?
I am not ungrateful or mean-spirited. I have had some delightful times over the festive period: New Year’s Eve and Day, for example, and the night of my birthday – both utterly lovely.
But, for the most part, my life since Christmas Day has been one of unremitting pain: In my back, bosoms, ribs, stomach, hips, pelvis, left leg and left arm. Everything except the left leg has been tested in the past seven months – and nothing which explains this level of pain found.
I am sure some reading this will be thinking, ‘You should be reassured by this, you ungrateful moo…’ But the reality is this: The pain does not stop – and last night was so awful, so living in the minute utter hell, that I genuinely did consider taking my own life out of sheer despair.
I haven’t done so. Obviously. Or I wouldn’t be typing (painfully) this.
But here is a plea from the heart: Please do not condemn those who are in pain, or ill, or both (either mentally or physically) for not trying hard enough, for not applying sufficient will-power and bright thinking to their problems. The sense of failure this engenders can, in turn, activate the spiral of despair and make vulnerable people feel that they do not deserve continued existence amongst the mentally strong.