Taking the challenge out of life also largely takes the fun out of it as well. Don’t get me wrong here; I’m most thankful for an indoor job, and the ability to provide for my family it affords me. I’m saying that if we aren’t on guard against it that it’s altogether too easy to wake up one day as Miss Havisham (from Great Expectations), wondering why life seems to be something that happens to someone else (just not, you know, us).Continue Reading...
Archives For pain
Creed II is coming this fall; as with all Rocky stories, it’s about overcoming obstacles, going the distance. Fundamentally, that is the element of story itself: a character who wants something, endures hardships, and overcomes obstacles to achieve that thing. The fact of the matter is that life is story. We are all of us living a story–living stories. Where we get tripped up is that we often delude ourselves into the belief that life is a movie about moi.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
I don’t want to speak for you, but in my life those times when I think I’m entitled to this, that, or the other thing–that life owes me–are generally the darkest, bleakest days. Not to say that there’s not such a thing a healthy belief in one’s self, one’s abilities, but rather that this requires an honest, humble assessment.
And it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. I, we, need others around to: encourage, rebuke, guide, cheer. Often we have to get out our own way to hear just what others have to say. I mean it’s true in life, and it’s true in the Rocky films. Rocky wouldn’t be the Rocky we’ve all come to know and love without: Mickey, Apollo, Adrian, Paulie, and now Creed. And Creed wouldn’t be who he is without Rocky by his side.
That’s really the crux of it: we, like Rocky, have to be willing to put in the hard work, believe we can even when it feels like we can’t, listen to the wisdom of others, get out of our own way, then invest in others, and pass the hard won lessons on.
Not to put too personal a spin on it, but my wife and I are in a season now where we are facing difficult health challenges, are in a season of transition as our oldest child is preparing to leave home, and our younger one approaches the teen years. All in the midst of financial concerns, helping our aging parents, looking towards our own retirement years (not really all that far off). And honestly some days it doesn’t feel as if we’re overcoming at all.
It’s rough. But it’s life. And if there’s one things that’s true it’s that if there’s any blessing to pain, any comfort in it, it’s that it means we’re still alive and kicking. Still in the arena. To feel pain one has to be alive. Let’s be honest: the dead don’t feel it. And truthfully, more than the good times–the easy times–it’s the hard times that shape us. If my faith in God has taught me anything it’s that. In a sense, Rocky (and Creed after him) is like Jesus, “who for the joy set before him endure the cross (the training, the blows, the scorn), despising the shame.”
So, yes, the hard times shape us–If we allow them to.
I’m still walking through it. My wife is walking through it. And chances are so are you.
How do you go the distance in your life?
No. This isn’t about that Molly–the drug. But it is about 100% pure Molly of another kind. My son’s best friend, Molly the canine. He so loves her that, since getting a job, he pays his sister to take care of her.
I digress, and need to backup to the beginning. It was three years ago that Molly entered our lives. We got her as a rescue. As such, two things are true of her:
1) We don’t exactly know her breed–other than possibly part Cockapoo.
2) She was spayed at just weeks of age.
Number one above isn’t so much of an issue as is (and isn’t it always) number two. You see the veterinary literature suggests that spaying too young can lead to health issues. These can include growth and/or maturity, cognitive problems, and in Molly’s case, seizures.
So here we had this cute, sweet, playful little puppy doing the things puppies do: pooping, peeing, playing, chewing…
And seizing. Out of nowhere, she would drop, losing control of at least one side of her body. At the time, we didn’t know of the link between spaying and seizures; we thought she was just sick. Sick, and that the rescue shelter hadn’t disclosed the issue. When contacted, they affirmed that we could bring her back; whereupon she would be promptly put down.
We weren’t about to do that.
So we just loved her.
Molly is still with us, has grown out of the seizures, but still has a problem which had persisted since puppyhood:
She doesn’t just chew; she snaps.
We’ll be watching out daughter playing with Molly (this little girl loves animals), and they’re happy, having a great time, frolicking , running, and then for no particular reason at all snap! go her jaws. This is not a playful bite, but a quick, powerful slamming. Molly inst upset–isn’t snarling, growling, and she hasn’t been hurt. The closest we can figure is that she’s overwrought–over-excited–amd this is how she behaves. Being a dog, we’re not sure that even she knows why. It just is.
Not being canine behaviorists, we can only speculate that PTSD being a thing with people, it’s entirely possible that it’s a thing with dogs as well. Molly suffered childhood trauma: was born into less than ideal conditions, removed from that setting, cleaned up, operated upon, separated from her mother and siblings, introduced into a new environment, and then to top it all off had seizures as well.
It’s no wonder that life sometimes is too much for her. Why she’s dysfunctional. Why she gets anxious outdoors, preferring the security of her crate.
I bring that all up, because it’s like that with dysfunctional people, too; they probably don’t even know why they are they way they are. They have suffered some kind of childhood trauma, and adopted a particular set of coping skills to make life survivable. Understanding this–like Molly–give us a way to love them, have them in our lives.
One could, for instance, be having this awesome conversation with your loved one, be feeling the familial bond, like you’re relating, then the <snap> comes. Just like Molly, out of nowhere, one is cut, emotionally bleeding.
We’re all conditioned to trust our family members, but then get seriously sidelined when they let us down, hurt us. We have to bear in mind where they’ve come from, the hurts they’ve borne, and go prepared. That to my mind is the difference between a reaction and a response.Forewarned is forearmed.
Make no mistake: this is not excusing bad behavior, but understanding its origins. Like Molly, people don’t often know they’re being hurtful. Like your loved one (or mine) for instance. They says things probably because that’s how they were spoken to. They don’t know there’s something wrong. Just like Molly getting over excited and snapping her jaws. She’s not trying to be bad, she’s not trying to hurt anyone; she’s just being Molly.
Understanding this is the difference between reacting to a perceived (or actually hurt) and and having a prepared response. It’s knowing that the hurt will come, and having a plan going into that time without always being so hurt, so caught off guard, by them. We go into any interaction with the understanding that sooner or later the <snap> is coming. In the case of Molly, she goes back into her crate for a cooling off period. With people, much as we want to at times, we can’t simply lock them away.
But we can excuse ourselves, having determined in advance just what our limits are, and what to do when those boundaries are crossed. It could be words: “that’s unfair,” “it hurts my feelings when…,” or it could be simply getting up and leaving ourselves. If my family has learned anything Molly, it’s that when she’s acting out reprisals, reproach, recrimination, or call it discipline doesn’t work. People aren’t so very different; defensive behavior will almost always escalate situations. Or as the Bible says, “a soft answer turns away wrath.” In the case of these difficult situations, and especially in cases where people just don’t even know they’re being hurtful (and tempers can easily flare), sometimes that soft answer is simply walking away–thereby gaining much needed space and perspective.
It’s amazing what we can learn from a little dog, isn’t it?
How do you handle the Molly’s in your life?
There is nothing quite like pain to bring us up short. When it hurts just to breathe, how do we take that next breath? The body knows–even if the receptors in the brain are flaring up like an electrified pin cushion. We would term this bad pain. Certainly unwanted pain.
You see, I’ve been on a journey to work my way up to a 300 lb bench press. With only a couple of months to go, I recently took a tumble, hurting my back. This is has hindered the forward momentum I had laboriously, by the sweat of my brow, built. Only fifty pounds away from my goal, I’ve had to stop. You see, when one is working out, there are good and satisfying pains of the workout (soreness), there are the pains one pushes through.
And as I alluded to above, there are the pains that quite literally take one’s breath away. We would (as I said above) call this bad pain. The thing is, pain just is. It’s a warning system to let us know when things aren’t right. In these cases, it’s a voice which must be heeded. Or else we risk adding injury to injury.
Author Jim Butcher says there’s one thing we often forget about pain; namely, that it’s for the living. The dead don’t feel it. That we feel pain means, quite bluntly, that we are still alive. Philip Yancey would remind us to look to the leper, whose deadened nerve endings deny the necessary warnings which pain brings…
I’m not going to lie: pain isn’t fun. And the season of recovery, where I must sacrifice some of the progress of made, is frustrating. But it is necessary.
There is something to be said for slowing down. I’ve been able to read more, watch some movies, rest.
Pain let me know that it was time for a reset.
What has pain taught you?
Your friend Ricky Anderson calls the gym the “hurting place.” He’s not kidding! In the last week, you’ve:
Sprained your back
Sprained your foot (in the locker room. No, you don’t want to talk about it).
And you’ve come down with the aptly (yet oh-so-understatedly) named “exertional headaches.” For the Star Wars fan, it feels like Alderaan exploding inside your head. Or maybe the Death Star. One of the two.
The first time it happens, you’re like Is this an aneurysm? Am I having a stroke? Did Freddie Kruger somehow slip his gloved hand into the dura mater? Inside my skull? All you know is your world is pain. One thousand suns have gone super nova at the base of your skull…
You babble the Pater Noster, crawling into a dark and quiet place. The back of your head all the while hammering a staccato rhythm in time with the beating of your heart. It throbs, it pulses, it pounds.
You do all you can to just breathe. In, and out. In, and out. You’re calmer. You open your eyes.
That’s when you notice the halos. Everything–every bright thing–is ringed with a glowing halo. But the centers of those rings are mushy, indistinct.
Blurry. Yes, blurry. That’s the word you’re looking for. Even with your glasses on, the world is both bright, and blurry.
But you’re not dying. No grey matter has begun leaking from your ears (although you halfway wish some would–it would relieve the pressure). You want nothing but a bottle of Ibuprofen, and some rest (you settle for two pills, and let your wife drive the car).
The headache eventually subsides, leaving you with an aching, stiff neck. You read somewhere that rest is the only cure for exertional headaches.
So you take a day off.
One day off working out, and a day off of your supplements.
Then you’re up bright and early for your cardio… And you did it! No headache. This gives you hope for lifting day. You’re smart about it: you drink your protein shake, washing down two ibuprofen with it. You wait a bit, and then head out to the gym. Instead of pushing yourself, you opt for about seventy-five percent of the level you were at before. You take it nice and slow.
Your reps are slow–up, and down; up, and down. All the while you’re controlling your breathing. A headache threatens to come on. You breathe through it, gently working your neck. The pain subaides, and you continue your workout. You’re very conscious of:
Your blood pressure
You make it through! Congratulations!
You didn’t let the pain get you down.* Whether you worked out as hard as you wanted, or not–you did it.
You’re a champion in my book.
*Whatever pain, or hard thing, you’re facing friends: stare it down, master it. Push through to the other side. Whether it’s working out, writing, painting, cleaning house:
YOU CAN DO IT!
Master your gym today.