Getting used to the pain.

“Go ahead.  Underestimate me.  That’ll be fun.”

I read that on a tea towel somewhere and related to it whole heartedly.  Now, however, I want to rewrite it slightly to say:  “Go ahead.  Tell me I’m getting old.  That’ll be fun.”  Especially when you’re trying to convince me that the pain I have been experiencing lately is due to aging.  And that it just has to be accepted as such.

I think not.

For longer than three months, I’ve been dealing with a particular pain associated with spinal issues (although the actual pain occurs just about everywhere in my body except my back).  When I last visited my favorite massage therapist, she asked me if the pain was any better.  And I said it was about the same … or perhaps I was just getting used to it.  And then we were both quiet for awhile, and I thought about “getting used to it.”  Getting used to the pain.  And I thought that it was perhaps the most regrettable and senseless and most unacceptable reality there could be – “getting used to the pain.”  

As I climbed onto the massage table, I began applying that thought to a global perspective – and found it to be even more abhorrent.  Are we “getting used to the pain?”

There is, after all, such tremendous pain in the world.  From lack of leadership to the death of bees.  From children being held hostage by out-of-control violence in schools, to animals dying from out-of-control environments that hold entire continents hostage.  From greed as well as blindness, pride as well as perception.  And it comes in all sizes, speaks in all languages, lives to all ages.  There is pain between races and genders and cultures and creeds.  There is pain against the most vulnerable and among the most brave.  We can experience pain from great distances, worldwide, or one-to-one.  And day-to-day, we are learning to live with it, getting used to it.  Getting used to the pain.

I suspect we all have our personal pain, too.  Some of it – the emotional self kind – I suspect we often guard and protect and polish with care over time, like a pearl in our shell.  We identify with our pain.  It is as much a part of us as our shape and spirit.  There is also something called “genetic or ancestral memory.”  And I believe some of our pain comes through this link with the past.  It keeps thriving and grieving without our conscious understanding or personal experience – without our intellect or our inherent compassion for one another stopping and asking the great “why” of it all.  Our pain is often lonely and quiet, hidden and fed in secrecy.  But it can also be grubby and loud, bursting forth, swinging fists, shouting out unkind things.

My massage therapist had spoken about us working on the pain – together.  And it seemed the perfect plan.  To not just accept it, but to work against it.  Not by myself alone, but together with her expertise.

In the end, because of my own pain experience, I suspect I have learned this:  Whether personal or public, physical or philosophical, alleviating pain takes work – collaborative work, it takes determination and goals and intentionality.  It doesn’t just go away if we hide from it.  It doesn’t get better overnight.

It can start with one – and the singular idea that we will never let ourselves “get used to it.”  We cannot simply get used to the pain in anyone’s life, anywhere, under any circumstances.  I suspect that if we work at it together, we won’t have to.  

Personally – I think we can do this.

Go ahead.  Underestimate us.  That’ll be fun.