Learning to Deal With Pain
By Sheryl Kraft
The other day, the sun was shining and the temperatures were cooperating beautifully. After too many days of relentless rain (although I am loving the abundant lushness from all that moisture!), I decided to take a break from my desk and bike into town to pick up some lunch.
When we moved last year, we traded our apartment in the third-largest city in Connecticut for a bucolic town and a house within spitting distance of the sea. I've been comforted to return to an area much like where I spent my childhood—one devoid of hills and much more bike-friendly, making it tough to remain indoors for too long.
My bike, which is aging along with me, is starting to exhibit subtle signs of wear and rust, yet it works just fine and has that sort of cool shabby, beachy feel. And although I've been riding a bike for about as long as I can remember, lately I've been pedaling with a bit more hesitation.
I worry about distracted drivers. I worry about deep holes from winter's cruel elements. I worry mostly about losing my balance and falling. (And yes, I always wear a helmet and continue to ponder the question: How did we ever survive childhood without things like bike helmets and seat belts?)
I worry because I'm a born worrier, yes (#thisiswhatanxietyfeelslike). Bit the reality of it is that when you're in this so-called midlife, falling not only carries many risks but is also more likely. We have to work harder at our coordination, reflexes and balance—the trio of skills that were our birthright.
Unfortunately, I've had my share of falls. Fortunately, I'm OK for the most part, save the fallout from a broken wrist and a neck that will never be the same after multiple surgeries. But I try not to dwell and go about my life as though I am intact and without limitations.
Denial? Maybe, but it serves me well. Most of the time.
We fall—and, hopefully, we get back up. Pain is that part of life that hovers, strikes and retreats. Pain fosters courage, teaching us what we need to know. You can't get around it, but you can get through it.
But it's not just the pain of injury or illness we fear and we face. It's also the pain of losing a loved one, a pet, a friend. The pain of divorce and broken friendship. The pain of seeing your child in pain. The pain of powerlessness.
The pain of not getting the job/the house/the success you've always hoped would be yours. The pain of knowing that you have more years behind than ahead of you.
Ah, the vulnerability of pain.
And by the time we get to this so-called midlife, hopefully we've learned how to deal with those cruel challenges of pain and how to "lean in" to its discomfort. How to avoid it. How to give into it. How to interpret it. How to muddle through, sidestep, ignore or face it, despite its stubborn insistence to wear us down.
Resilience. It's the best defense.
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