Friday, November 25, 2011

Sturm und Drang vs. Faith and Love

My girlfriend from the west coast was in town, so we met for dinner.  I gave her a pad of poopoo paper I'd been saving for her.  Nothing says "I've been thinking of you" like a gift made from real poo.  She was pleased.  I bet her three kids are going to get a kick out of it.

Our conversation centred on health-related topics.  She has just done a 3-week cleanse.  How her parents are doing.  What it was like saying goodbye to her aunt who just died of cancer.  Of course I told her about the goings on and passings on in my life.  We talked about our parents' health, our husbands' health, special diets, who is allergic to what...

It seems to me that sometime during this year I crossed the border into another country without realizing it.  There was no welcome sign, no customs official demanding documentation or a pat-down, no duty-free gift shop.  But I looked up one day and found myself in the Land of Middle Age.  It seems like everyone who wandered in this realm unawares is dealing with health problems, and/or aging parents, and/or they are an aging parent.  I hear myself saying the phrase "my husband's cardiologist" and think that it's too soon for this.  I expected to make it to at least 40, maybe even 45, before I had to worry about the health of my peers.  Granted, my friends tend to be a few years older than me, but still.  Ken isn't even turning 37 for another month.

This isn't a complaint so much as an attempt to get oriented on this new turf.  I mean, it had to happen sooner or later, and the truth is that lots of people have to face the fragility and mortality of themselves and their loved ones much earlier than this.  Yes, I feel a certain amount of dismay and resistance.  That's only human.  I also know that I have to adjust to my new reality.  I must find the courage to stick by my loved ones through hard times as well as good ones.  I want to be a reassuring, uplifting presence in their lives.

My primary goal is to be a channel for faith, love, and joy into the lives of anyone close enough to me to be affected.

Suffering is inescapable.  Faith lies in believing that suffering occurs in the service of a larger plan, one we cannot fully understand, in which suffering leads in the end to something good, something worth it all.  I see how my breakdown led directly to the healing of my relationship with my mother, and I feel that it was well worth it.  I would go through every agonizing minute all over again if I had to, to gain a relationship that I've been grieving my whole life. 

Sometimes it seems that no good will ever come of suffering, but when I think of everyone I know, the people who have been through the darkest times and the most pain are the ones who have turned out to be the most kind, compassionate, and caring people.  Painful experiences break you, and if you have the good fortune to be able to heal, you are reborn with a new heart. 

How do you deal with suffering?


DarcKnyt said...

I'd like to say I deal with suffering bravely, stoically, with a stiff upper lip and only grieve my circumstances in private, away from all who might see. That's a friggin' lie, though. I whine, cry, swear, shake my clay fist at God, curse and condemn, thirst for name it. If it's a poor reaction, I have it. My wife is the one who deals in private and quiet.

But, please, do allow me to welcome you to middle age! Here's your fruit basket -- and your epinephrine hypo in case you're allergic -- and here's your map, because those gol' ding GPS thingies ain't worth a consarn thing. Oh, and your bifocals. Don't forget those -- if you can avoid it, 'cause the mem'ry goes too. I just got mine last month or so.

Ha! Welcome! Nice to have you! What's your name again?

Lynn said...

Yes - welcome to middle age. :) My cousin and I were talking about yesterday - how old we are, but that we feel in our heads exactly as we did 20 years ago.

I just focus on the positives and don't keep things pent up, I guess.

Granny Annie said...

I have had my share of illnesses which have caused pain and some fright in my life but honestly I can never say that I have suffered.

Sparkling Red said...

DarcKnyt: Heavens yes, the bifocals. I haven't quite gotten there yet, but I suspect it may be just around the corner. At least I'm already used to wearing glasses, so it won't be that much of an adjustment.

Lynn: Good advice! It's so easy to focus on what's wrong, when so much is in fact right. Maybe the farsightedness of middle age is symbolic: as you get older your perspective changes so that you see the bigger picture.

Granny Annie: What's your secret? I certainly admire your resilience and positive perspective. Obviously your husband has been through a serious illness, but you always bring lightheartedness in your writing. You don't make a big deal about how tough it is to be brave, you just appreciate your comical chickens and keep living well. Would you please be my mentor?

G said...

I'm zipping forward to middle age quite nicely right now (46) and so far it's been okay.

A for the suffering bit, you take what's offered to you and try to make the best of it that you can.

At least that's what I do with the various medical maladies that are coursing through my body.

Warped Mind of Ron said...

I deal with suffering by whining a lot and just suffering.

Sparkling Red said...

G: Yeah, you seem to have a pretty good approach to life. You know how to have a good time. :-)

Ron: That is the most straightforward approach. It's the Occam's razor protocol of suffering.

LL Cool Joe said...

I think I'm with Ron on this one! I tend to build up many walls around me to try and protect myself from suffering.

It doesn't work.

Jenski said...

I have definitely started feeling older. And then I worry about getting done everything I want to get done! I guess I worry. And then I worry about how to stop worrying. That's what old people do, right?

I love the poop paper.

Sparkling Red said...

LL Cool Joe: Nope, it sure doesn't work. I know from experience that running away from suffering only ends up by making it worse, although that doesn't stop me from trying to avoid it at every chance I get!

Jenski: The older people I admire are the ones who have learned to take things in stride and not sweat the small stuff. They are a minority, to be sure, but they're out there.

DarcsFalcon said...

Oh I don't think I deal well with suffering at all. I'm sure there must a "mature" way, I just have no clue what it is!

I deal with it by writing in journals, and writing poetry, I cry, and I pray. Mostly I pray. Then I take a deep breath and do it again.

Welcome to middle age! It's not so bad, once you decide it's all in your head and you're really just 29, again. ;)

Owl Dancer said...

Nice post. This is the sort of thing that's been going through my mind lately too...adjusting to the new turf. Just the other day at a doctor's appointment, she said that it was time to start getting certain tests done because I am forty. I politely corrected her...after all I won't be forty for another three months LOL! Silliness aside, I agree with what you said about the way we deal with things and I do try to keep in mind that everything happens for a reason. Oh, yes I still whine and moan sometimes but I do believe it. The part about being a source of hope and joy in the lives of others is important. Not always easy, but always good to strive for. And just so you know...your words here at the blog have provided a lot of comfort, wisdom, and laughter. I'm glad that you're here Spark.