No Pain, No Depth

Written on by Kathryn Lerro

The first days of January every year are days I plan to fill with productivity. On my list of New Year to-dos are things like returning to the gym with fresh determination, putting holiday decorations away and tidying the house for an orderly segue into late winter and early spring. There are household projects, forgotten during the holiday months, now needing to be readdressed. This year’s project is new trim around the upgraded bathroom door my husband and I installed—last summer! There are artistic goals, too; the hope of mustering the courage to try out the paints, brushes and painting how-to books my daughters gave me for Christmas. And there are a dozen different ideas for pieces I want to write. All of this (big LOL!) I’d hoped to begin in the first days of 2015.

But I was tired from the festivities and work of the previous six weeks, so I took January 2nd as a day of rest. Then, quite unexpectedly, I woke up in the wee hours of January 3rd with searing pain in my shoulder and my arm. A pinched nerve—pretty much debilitating and not something I’d hoped to begin the new year with, but based on previous experience I thought I’d be back to normal in about a week.

On January 9th, however, with the pinched nerve only marginally better, I also came down with the flu. Well, hey—why not get it all over with at once, right?

Except this particular flu hung on as no flu I’ve ever had before—a full three weeks of aches, coughing and exhaustion. And the pinched nerve turned out to be part of a larger problem, keeping me from my normal activity and requiring at least four weeks of physical therapy—which could not begin until I was flu-free.

So the whole month of January had me “making buttons” (a peculiar expression I learned from my mother-in-law, which basically means having to sit still when you’d rather be getting things done); and now, in mid-February, many of my best-laid plans are still thumbing their noses at me.

It’s reminding me of the years I spent caring for my sick daughter. My whole focus became trying to make her well. Any plans I had for myself—career goals, personal goals, educational goals—had to be shelved. I never resented her for it but I did wonder if I’d ever get back to the things I’d hoped to be doing with my life.

It seemed like wasted time.

For her sake, I wish those years had never happened. Thankfully, she got well; but even if she hadn’t, the hardships I faced because of her illness produced character in me that hadn’t been there before. I became a stronger, braver, more empathetic version of myself.

It was incredibly painful time, for sure—but it was not wasted time.

So, what did I do as I hung around waiting for the flu to make its exit and for my angry muscles to release the poor little nerve they’d taken hostage?

I thought and I rested. I became a little wiser and I became a little more patient.

The shoulder problem is still in progress, but when it is finally resolved, I believe there’ll be a little more to me than there was before.

I wouldn’t choose to do this again (believe me—I wouldn’t!) but I have chosen to make the best of it.

I hope you’re finding the silver linings in whatever challenges you’re dealing with today and I hope you’re opting to let them make you stronger—not wear you down. 

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