Pain and Perspective
Not long ago, I was running through the world with usual worries about family, career, and finances but was essentially pain free barring a few achy joints from the freezing cold of Philadelphia. Regardless, that I have been on the east coast for one year, I still longed for California’s Bay Area weather. I’d been happy about my teaching post at DeVry University, my yoga classes, and the Spoken Word event I had organized here in Philly. But all that changed. It was in the middle of a Monday morning the wee hours around 2am. when I was seized by a severe pinched nerve in my lower back that took me to my knees and gave me great pause. In the grips of pain, I yelled out in anger.
“How could this be happening to me? Why, I try to be a good human!” I was furious with God; there must have been some mistake. After all, it was a familial joke that I was the chosen receptacle for all the genetic defects; allergies, Type 1 diabetes, hypothyroid, accident prone. So far I‘d been spared the family’s propensity for GERD and AFIB. Surely, I was not being bestowed yet another diabolic disease from heredity’s deck of cards?
As it turned I was. Arthritis—lumbar stenosis to be precise. It had been patiently waiting in the wings. They, the doctors, were stumped as I was too young for this disease. They surmised it came from an injury years ago—well not that long ago really. The injustice of it all! I shook my fist in the air reminding God, the Universe, Brahman, Allah, Buddha, and anyone else who would listen—that I taught and practiced yoga, was a strict vegetarian (except for the occasional salami), and took supplements daily. I regularly (well as often as I could with my busy schedule) prayed for world peace and prosperity. It was to no avail, the pain accelerated at the rate of a wild fire. Within a week I felt debilitated, wracked with spasms and a swollen sciatic nerve.
Most of you don’t realize before my booming writing career I was a Registered Nurse. I worked with patients in pain and felt empathy for all of them—expect for the really obnoxious demanding ones. How better to understand pain’s influence than to have lumbar stenosis? I grew more empathetic by the second. I was lodged on a white tiled pity pot and could not pull myself off. I recalled the worst case scenarios—those who were crippled for life or had botched surgeries rather than a laminectomy surgeons looped off a knee. Nightmares flooded my psychic and I was helpless, clutched in fear that made my muscles tighten and my symptoms worse.
“Rest and heat.” The doctor prescribed. Wonderful I get to marinate in my dread a bit longer. “We have other therapies and medications—but try resting and take these.” He shoved a prescription of pills at me. I did as he said. The pills made me feel as if I was drunk at sea during a storm. I resumed good old Ibuprofen, heat, and called everyone I knew. The conversations would start out fine until asked “How are you?” then I dissolved into a fit of sobbing wallowing in despair longing for my “other body” to come back. I felt abandoned.
Around day two, I talked with a fellow colleague who suffered from back pain since her early twenties. She told me, “Karen, meditate, and believe in miracles.” Ba humbug was my initial reaction. But soon after listening to guided mediations on healing and letting go, I did indeed begin to feel better. The swelling subsided and gradually I returned to my yoga—my dear darling sweet yoga. If you are not a practitioner yet—run to your nearest store for a mat and breath. Something else began to happen; a new flowering perspective began to grow from the depths of my consciousness. I knew on an intellectual level that worst things can and do happen to people. Children with cancer, people suffering merely due to the lack of daily food. My back was not the end of me it was perhaps a new beginning.
I slowly turned inward, listened and read Deepak Chopra, my Rumi book, the Bible, and settled myself in. Which is difficult for me—I like to move, see things, be outside, and here I was prisoner to my body—and the only escape was through my unconscious. I had to surrender. After much kicking and spewing, I finally did. Healing from within and allowing a manifestation in my life—required patience. Living in a city or heck just living in America, does little to foster quietness or sitting in silence—can you hurry up and mediate already! In addition my identification with others and being Italian/Irish demands a steady diet of people and activity. I was forced to find a balance—being alone had to be okay. Historically my idea of alone was someone (preferably more than one) in the next room. It was my crossroad to shake hands with fear.
Thankfully the internet and my computer allowed me to stay part of the world. They also brought me amazing meditations and interviews with Deepak. He does not realize how much his words impacted me—God does hear us—and yes miracles do happen. Maybe the miracle is not that may back is healed (there is still a ways to go) but the fact that I have rediscovered the essence of me. Me without restrictions, a new improved me, a me that can say, “I am scared.’ but do it anyway. Pain and perspective---they are both in some strange way, my friends.
Causes Karen Devaney Supports
Eve Ensler and any organization that deals with issues supporting women and children and the advancement of their education.