Papercut and colored pencil art by Sheryl Aronson X 5

Monday, January 2, 2012

Grow Safely

I have been reading a book that contains a lot of wisdom: My Grandfather's Blessings, by Rachel Naomi Remen, MD. I mentioned this author in a blog about a month ago, and at that time I ordered several of her books. This is the first I have read. The subtitle of the book is Stories of Strength, Refuge and Belonging. Dr. Remen counsels people with cancer. Some of the stories are about patients' experiences, some are from teaching med students, and some are her own experiences, as a child with her grandfather (an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi), or coping with her own illness. (Yes, folks- she's one of us [people living with chronic illness]- she gets it.) The chapters are short, easy to read one, a few or many at a time. Each one weaves together a variety of elements to round out a point. I am thoroughly enjoying it, and have been marking some segments to use in blog posts.
I just read a chapter about a dream she had about a daffodil bulb planted in the ground, with a big rock directly above it. The rock is protecting the daffodil from growing in this, dangerous world. The daffodil says it needs to bloom, that is its reason for existence. Dr. Remen went to an acupuncturist for a pain in her back. During the treatment, the image of the daffodil and the rock came to mind, and she watched as the rock transformed into a greenhouse, and thus protected, the daffodil bloomed extraordinarily, made of light.  Instead of protecting the daffodil from blooming, it was now protected so it could bloom. Dr. Remen relates this story to a big decision she needed to make, and from it she found the courage to move forward with her decision.
I found another meaning that is smaller but closer to home for many of us. Being chronically ill and/or in pain, we place a rock over ourselves that keeps us from exposure to further pain or illness. It can be hard to determine how much we can safely do before we start to exacerbate our symptoms. We are instructed to stop before that point, but if we don't know where that point is, we may err on the side of caution, and stop too soon. In doing so, we may prevent ourselves from living our lives.
How can we transform our self-imposed life-hindering rocks into life-enhancing greenhouses?  That is up to each of us to determine.  Experiment with your limits. Allow yourself to step out of your comfort zone (literally) and live life. I'm not suggesting you ride the upside down roller coaster, but how about the carousel? You don't need to aim for a marathon, but try to increase (slowly, if need be) what you allow yourself to do.Take some chances. This is the only life you get (or so I believe). Live it. Many people with chronic pain and illness are depressed and disappointed by life.  Life isn't fair (that's true). But what restrictions are truly imposed by your illness and pain, and what restrictions are imposed by fear?  I wrote a post awhile back saying that sometimes it is worth it to go beyond your safe limits, knowing you may (will?) pay for it later.
In her next chapter, Dr. Remen discusses suffering. I will end this post with this thought: “In the depths of every wound we have survived is the strength we need to live. The wisdom our wounds can offer us is a place of refuge. Finding this is not for the faint of heart. But then, neither is life.”

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