this secondary level of suffering

I’m not sure when life seemed to get a bit tougher, but it seems to have something to do with the increasing amount of pain and suffering my kidney condition inflicts. The pain isn’t devastating and it isn’t life-threatening but it is frequent and sometimes it gets worse quite rapidly. I am determined to be entirely honest when people ask me how I’m doing, how I’m feeling. I’m determined to tell them “low levels of pain”, or on some days, “it’s been rough.” I’m firm that I won’t say “fine!” when asked how I am. I often say, “I’m having kidney pain, but emotionally I am doing well.”

Of course, it’s a bit more complicated than that. I think that having constant pain would wear on almost any emotional life, whatever one’s attitude. I keep returning to the thought there’s something different I should be doing. Some wall I should be trying to climb. As if there’s much different I could do.

Or the practical stuff. There is pain medication I can use. It does help. When I have it, I take it sparingly. And doctors, these days, prescribe it sparingly. Well, some of them do – including my kidney doctor. I can get more medication – but every refill requires another x-ray. An x-ray where they find yes, surprise, more kidney stones. An x-ray that costs us, and an x-ray that exposes my body to more radiation. It’s a yucky choice.

Welcome to life on life’s terms!

I’ve had a member of the community show up – at my door, in the morning – offering cannabis in some form or other (I didn’t ask for more information). Yes, at my doorstep. It was kindly meant, I am absolutely sure. I am too tired to be irritated or judgmental. I am too tired to do much of anything but try to keep a good attitude.

The pain brings gifts, and not trifling ones either. Spending some time helping others takes on a new meaning. In helping others I am transported into a reality, and out of my pain momentarily. I can experience creation and be loving and kind and not be blinded by misery and discomfort. I can have respite from a cruel illness and (occasionally) a punishing mind.

So please believe me that when I tell you to stop beating yourself up, to be kind to yourself – that I really am brave enough to do the same.

I find that, watching other people enjoy their life, is also a gift. My children are, no surprise, my greatest gifts. As I write this my son snuggles under my comforters, waiting for me to join him and cuddle him. My daughter is cozy upstairs watching a movie I rented her, a classic, on her headphones. Her enjoyment, her living and breathing and pain-free body, gives me so much joy. My son’s body under the covers in morning sleep – buying them lunch – talking to them about their troubles.

All these things: gifts beyond what money could buy.

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