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into helplessness

Life may be a great teacher but who wants to be taught (when what I really want is for the pain to go away). It’s 5:17 am and the second night of constant pain is turning into morning. Waking from fitful sleep, I roll and turn, looking for a position that might give some comfort. No point taking pain meds as they don’t seem to do any good. Running a bath and hoping for relief from hot immersion … I barely get wet when I scramble out with a howl. Always looking: over there, in the next moment, with this diversion or that, please fix me. Anything but stay in this moment, with this pain, and face my utter helplessness. 

That’s the word which jumps off the page as I look to Ezra Bayda for guidance. Today he surprises me: not with the hoped-for breathing remedy, but this:

We all dread the helplessness of losing control; yet real freedom lies in recognizing the futility of demanding that life be within our control. Instead, we must learn the willingness to feel–to say yes to–the experience of helplessness itself. This is one of the hidden gifts of serious illness and loss. It pushes us right to the edge, where we may have the good fortune to realize that our only real option is to surrender to our experience … .

Later this morning: taking Bayda’s observation to heart, I opened to the fact that I cannot fix this, that I’m helpless and without magic powers. Even the physiotherapists (two!) were puzzled by the symptoms but gave it their best. A taxi took me home, still in 4-out-of-5 pain, but something has changed. What is it?

 source: Bayda. E. (2009). Zen heart: simple advice for living with mindfulness and compassion. Boston: Shambala, p. 155.


4 responses »

  1. A friend of mine called his cancer “a health opportunity” and I must say as you describe I always have to be dragged to these “opportunities” kicking and screaming. And yet, they are transformative in their own way, these difficulties. But that doesn’t negate our call to find a solution to our pain which can wear us out and make it hard to think straight.

    I am offering a prayer for relief of that intense pain you are experiencing and wondering what might help. Acupuncture or some other alternative treatment?

    • carole thank you for prayers and commiserating. saw physio this morning, assessment suggests that it’s not sciatica after all; further treatment with senior partner tomorrow morning. trip to monastery on hold: best laid plans etc.

  2. oh goodness p… what a pickle – i send healing thoughts to you – as you say, best laid plans


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