Gracelessness January 17, 2010

I am annoyed with myself.

I like to think of myself as a warm and compassionate person; I like to have a sense of my own concern and tenderness for the people around me, and especially in my meeting.
At times I live up to that sense of myself. But among the many things that I dislike about physical pain is the discovery that I’m a lot more self-absorbed than I liked to think. My world has narrowed to be like a radio station in a very small town. There’s nothing much else on the dial: it’s all me, all the time. How’s my pain level today? Is the new physical therapy exercise working? How will I feel after I drive my car/work all day/grade these papers/sit through this meeting?
The members of my Quaker meeting have been terrific in supporting me. They’ve recently taken on making the whole meeting room more accessible, not just for me, but for anyone else with a disability. I’ve gotten supportive phone calls, emails, cards, and even a visit–from a member of my meeting who was actually recovering from surgery of her own. But nothing seems to break through the crust of my self-involvement for long…
Today, on my way into meeting, many people said how glad they were to see me back after my absences the last two weeks. They commented on how well I was walking, and congratulated me on being stronger and healthier. And they’re right; I’m definitely on the mend.
But like a kid halfway through their recovery from chicken pox, I’m cranky and whiney and restless–in my head, if not out loud.
Walking has not been the problem. Walking has been the comfort and the oasis. It is sitting that is torture, whether in a car or in a chair. Even my Lafuma chair is painful after a half hour or so.
Can you believe I’m whining about this? There are people whose pain comes from arthritis, that will only worsen, or is part of a disease process that has no cure, or even is part of a far more serious back problem that might require surgery–with or without the certainty of relief at the end of it. I know all this.
And yet, in my head, as people were cheerily welcoming me to meeting, letting me know I had a spring in my step and they saw it and they were glad about it, because they were concerned for me and they cared about me, the spoiled child in my head was snarling, “Walking isn’t the problem, you jerk! I still can’t sit down, you maroon!”
Nice! Very nice.
I knew I was being irrational. People go out of their way to be kind, and I’m sarcastic toward them in my head because they aren’t up on the details of my petty health problems? These are people who have busy lives and worries of their own, who are offering me kindness, and it took work to remember that, in another life, I love them, too?
It seems I am more human, and less saintly, than my fantasies make me out to be. Dammit.
I had such a hard time sensing God today. I know She’s there, like a blue sky above me. Something inside me is just having a really hard time accepting that it is my job to raise my own head, to look up, and see the stars.
I know She’s there. I know my friends love me, and that, when I am less crabby and self-pitying, I’ll remember how to love them back, and that tenderness will restore itself to my world-view, like a missing color from my palette. (I can feel it, even now, that River of Kindness and Life, roaring invisibly beneath all things, making them tremble with its power and strength.)
But I know, too, that sometimes loving-kindness, or even simple reasonableness, is a grace I do not have. Like all grace, it’s not mine of my own creation–it’s only ever just loaned to me, from time to time. I don’t get to own it, or command it, or take it for granted.
It’s a bit humbling to discover how much that grace is not me. I’m really not happy to find myself so very small.

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