jimowenswrites

Reflections on Life, Leadership, Mindfulness, Change, and other Important Stuff

Tag: pain

She sits alone

She sits alone,
In a hollow place
A single tear,
Glides down her face;

She sits alone,
In shadows gray,
Wishing for
Some different way;

She sits alone,
And wonders how,
She might make,
A better now?

She sits alone,
This life so long,
A distant voice,
A mournful song;

She rises up,
Then plants her feet:
What lies ahead,
What pain to greet?

She rises up,
Despite the fear,
Her shoulders back,
The dawn is near;

She rises up,
Wipes tear away,
In this place,
She cannot stay;

She rises up,
Shrugs off despair,
This weary warrior
Of life’s affairs;

She takes a step,
Into the light,
Bids adieu,
This painful plight;

She takes a step,
Two, then three,
Walking on,
How can this be?

She takes a step,
Four, then five,
Just grateful that,
She’s still alive;

She stands alone
With head held high,
Her soul renewed
Her battle cry;

She stands alone,
A fragile peace,
Her burden lighter,
Sorrow released;

She stands alone,
Though griefs remain,
But smiles a bit,
Wash away the stain;

She sits alone,
In a hollow place,
Still some fears,
This better place.

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I woke up and wondered

I woke up and wondered
What today might bring;
Sorrow or comfort,
Some new song to sing?

I woke up and wondered
What today might bring;
A victory or joy,
Some fresh painful thing?

I woke up and wondered,
How surely to meet:
Whatever should come
Without self-deceit?

I woke up and wondered,
How should I reply;
Whatever I see,
Keep open my eyes?

I woke up and wondered,
Have I finally grown,
Am I able to walk
Together, alone?

I woke up and wondered,
Might I restore,
The broken and humble
And open my door?

I woke up and wondered,
My life full of charm,
Can I just embrace
The joy and the harm?

I woke up and wondered,
So much still to learn,
That giving is getting,
Let go of the yearn;

I woke up and wondered,
At all of their fears
Consuming like fire
And robbing their years.

I woke up and wondered,
If I could set free,
Release all the things
Bound inside of me?

I woke up and wondered,
In this Shakespearean play,
What role do I have?
What do I portray?

I woke up and wondered,
At teachers I’ve known,
Lessons I’ve learned,
The kindness they’ve shown.

I woke up and wondered,
At life’s mysteries,
Happy to sail,
Upon all of her seas.

I woke up
and wondered.

Just out of reach

Arms outstretched,

His shoulders’ strain,

Reach for the bloom

And feel the pain;

 

His fingers brush,

From hands that ache;

Forbidden tastes,

Must he forsake?

 

Above he looks

In sunlight’s glare;

Reach further still,

Should now he dare?

 

Bends down the branch,

And begs the the tree:

Let go thy fruit

That’s tempting me;

 

Near to his grasp,

This thing he seeks;

So close and still,

Just out of reach;

 

He cannot stop,

Will not relent,

Until his hope

Has all been spent.

This is no easy thing

This is no easy thing,

still loving you,

trying to heal this foolish broken heart,

trying to wipe of the stains of my tears for what could have been,

for what should have been;

 

This is no easy thing, sitting here,

wondering about what’s left,

what’s left undone,

wondering if there is anything that will rid me of this soul ache,

this hollow despair deep that permeates my body and pierces my belly,

hoping there is some way to deceive my heart into believing that everything

will be right once again—someday;

wondering if there is truly a time for all things under the sun will be such a time for us,

and if there is when it might come

hoping there will come a time

that wonderful, glorious day,

that day when my foolish mind no longer enslaves my heart;

 

This is no easy thing, sitting here, waiting,

hoping that I will hear the soft reminder of your love in the bell’s tinkling,

but fearing you now belong to another, someone more worthy,

someone who will erase me from your memories,

someone who captured you because I could not see,

because I was afraid,

and when I lay down and wonder about the things I said,

or didn’t say,

because I was afraid,

because I feared loss, more than I understood gain,

because I feared the uncertainty within myself and feared for you in that uncertainty;

 

This is no easy thing, sitting here,

not knowing,

waiting,

hoping,

pleading with the fate and the gods that rule it,

this is no easy thing, sitting here.

I didn’t notice

I didn’t notice,

not really, I’ll admit,

that you were gone,

that you were missing somehow,

that you had been slowly been engulfed by the pain,

enshrouded by the fatigue,

until you were almost covered,

covered by the slow and relentless approaching shadows,

the shadows I did not see,

the echoes of your memory deceiving me in the darkness,

making me believe you were safe,

that you were always there,

believing that you were stowed away like some some precious emerald,

when you had fallen out of sight,

out of sight of eyes,

eyes that did not know to look;

 

I’m grateful now,

grateful that I did not know to look,

grateful to be spared the heartache,

the fear of such grave loss,

spared the throbbing heart,

the desperate searching,

the gasping for breath,

the desperate thoughts,

crying out, “where have you gone?”

for I would have surely been ovewhelmed,

to reach for you,

to believe that you were gone,

that you were lost to me;

 

Yes,

I am so very grateful,

by your sudden return,

overcome with gratitude

to have this chance,

to know that are not forever lost,

that you are here,

here with me once again,

my heart full,

mindful,

perhaps more aware than ever,

of each moment,

each breath,

each heartbeat.

Desperation

When these weary eyes won’t close,

and I pace clumsily in the bleak shadows of night,

and my worst fears are mined

from the deepest caverns of my soul,

like oily lumps of anthracite,

fueling the fires of pain coursing through me

hot and white;

when every breath is nothing but a bellows,

blowing life into the flames of pain and desperation,

and when I look in the mirror and wonder,

who is this stranger?

the sands of his face etched with despair and exhaustion;

when the faint hope of some brief respite

comes only with the threat of addiction,

I remind myself.

Daylight, slow as she is,

will come

and cooling rains,

though they loiter,

will fall upon me once more,

washing away the scars of my discomfort

and that my thoughts,

with time,

will once more be as crisp and clear as an October morning.

A Vulnerable Moment

It’s been an interesting week or two for me. And I’m debating just how much of it to share. But I’ve always said writing is how I make sense of the world, so in the hopes of encouraging you, I’ll be a little more vulnerable than I might be otherwise. 

While some people seem comfortable with sharing every bit of pain they experience, I’m generally not one of them. But pain, if we let it, can be a wise teacher. If we look carefully for the source of our pain, be it physical or emotional, we can learn a lot about ourselves and maybe even others too. This past Sunday,  

my latest lesson with pain began at the end of a lawn mower starter cord. 

After a couple of unsuccessful attempts at starting this shiny red contraption by turning the ignition key, I resorted to the old-fashioned way of cranking the ornery beast. On the third pull of the rope it roared to life. And simultaneously, I felt the unmistakable pain of a disc exploding in my lower back. It was unmistakable because I’ve ruptured two discs in the past and had two very successful surgical repairs as a result of my misadventures. Now, I’ve had three surgeries. And as I write these words I’m hopeful the skill of my surgeon will result in a claim of a third successful surgery. 

After starting the mower, I somehow pressed through the pain and got the yard cut. Albeit, it wasn’t my best work. When I was finished, patches of grass I’d missed dotted the landscape like tiny oases of Mother Nature’s refusal to be tamed. I’m sure my neighbors thought the work had been completed by some near-sighted nine-year-old who just wished he was playing a video game. 

Over the following Monday and Tuesday a series of MRIs, X-Rays and CT scans confirmed my own diagnosis and my doctor promised to see me again Thursday. Only when he had reviewed all of my deductible-based evidence he had amassed would he then offer his thoughts about surgery. In the meantime, he put me on a mixture of medications intended to make me “comfortable.” But no amount of narcotics was sufficient to make me comfortable prior to that Thursday appointment. And Wednesday morning I awoke in such perfectly exquisite pain that I couldn’t get out of the bed.  

Since I live alone and am reticent to let people see me in pain, I pondered the most dignified way I could get to the ER. After an hour or so of debating with myself, I called the fine people at Huntsville Emergency Medical Services Incorporated. The kind dispatcher wondered if she should stay on the line with me while help was on its way, but I told her I was going to need to crawl to the front door to unlock it. Which I did with the stealth of Gollum muttering “my precious.” It wasn’t a pretty sight I’m sure. And you’d be surprised at all the things you see when you crawl through your home. But that’s another tale for another day. 

When Joe and Charlie arrived, the EMTs, they helped me navigate from the bed to the gurney. This was not pleasant. And I’ll confess there was no dignity in it. In truth, I was six feet seven and 250 pounds of helplessness, alternately cursing (not at them) and crying out in discomfort. As a writer, I’m rather proud of how well I  managed to string together bits of profanity in a creative symphony of pleading. Nouns became verbs; verbs became adjectives; and adjectives became pronouns in my litany of prayer for both the saved and the damned. 

In a moment of unexpected but profound comfort, Joe smiled and noted I was hanging off both ends of the gurney, suggesting that I  might not fit in the freight elevator. We laughed at that in a kind of macabre amusement. But after a bit of work, and my awkwardly pulling my feet into the gurney, the door finally closed and we were on our way. Mercifully, the only other witness to my awkward exit from the building that morning were the kind eyes of Kathy, the property manager at my apartment. Passing by her, I tried to remember if I’d paid my rent. (I had.) 

So what of my pain? To see me was to know something was wrong, but there was no blood. There were no broken or wrapped bones. There was no visible evidence that I was injured beyond the contortions of my face. All I had was the claim of my own distress.  

On the ride to the ER I worried I would face a skeptical medical staff weary of those poor souls whose addiction drives them again and again to the ER in hopes of a prescription for narcotics. God knows I was hoping for more than that. I wanted the good stuff. The really good stuff that makes the world seem like an effortless place to be. Hopes of Dilauded and Valium danced in my brain like joyful children playing in a spring shower. 

But what if they didn’t believe me? What if they left me to writhe in pain for hours while some secret society decided if I was worthy of their magical potions. Thankfully, I knew I had insurance, so I reassured myself that maybe I’d be okay. I tried to look at the nurse I met as if didn’t care if I got the meds or not, hoping my feigned indifference would convince them I wasn’t a pill shopper. 

Fortunately, I got the medicine I needed. But as the discomfort subsided, I realized how afraid I had been to let anyone see my pain. I hadn’t wanted a friend to drive me to the ER. I didn’t want to be a bother. I hadn’t wanted to seem helpless. I didn’t want people who respect–or at least like me–to see me near tears or hear me cursing like a demon being exorcised from a beleaguered soul. While I would gladly have come to the aid of any one of my friends or family who needed such assistance, I just didn’t want to be seen as vulnerable.  

But now, since my surgery, I’ve had to rely on people who love me to bring me food, take me to the doctor and even clean up my apartment. When you have back pain whatever you drop in the floor stays on the floor for a while. But strangely, all their kindness hasn’t been awkward. It’s been redemptive. By allowing others to help me, I’ve learned some things about myself and about them too. It has continued to reinforce the knowledge of just how rich my really life is—even with spine I’d trade for a couple of chickens, a goat and a nice cheeseball. 

The phone calls and texts and messages I’ve received during the monotony of my recovery have been overwhelming. And the friends who have come with a cup of coffee and sat with me, if only for just a few minutes, have made a profound difference in my recovery.  

Pain, no matter what kind it might be, is a nefarious thing. It shrouds our mind with lies and unearths our deepest fears. It makes us wonder if we will ever return to the fragile thing we call “good health.” But I’m learning it is also a teacher. I’m learning not to run from it. I’m learning not to try to hide it behind a facade of perfection. No, I don’t wander through life asking people to indulge me while I tell them about all my trials and pain. But I’ve widened my circle just a bit more. I’ve let a few more people see what’s really going on inside me. It’s made a big difference in my life. I know it’s scary. Maybe you should try it too.

And if your looking for someone to talk to, message me. We can get a cup of coffee when I’m back on my feet. Until then, we can chat by phone or swap a few texts. 

Peace. 

Pink Cadillac

Let there be laughter, when the day comes.  And food.  Lots of delicious food. The kind that’s bad for you.  Fried chicken. French fries. Gravy. Some biscuits with butter, too. And ice cream.  There has to be ice cream.  Moose Tracks, please.

Of course, music is a must.  The classic stuff.  Kansas, Journey, and The Eagles.  Maybe even some Springsteen.  Pink Cadillac.  I love that song.  Crushed velvet seats.  Ridin’ in the back.  Crusin’ down the street.

If there’s rain, don’t worry about it.  We’ll dance in the rain. If it’s cold, we’ll wear our favorite wool sweaters.  If it’s the wet-southern-sticky kind of hot, then cotton.  Definitely, cotton. It won’t be formal.  Who wants to go to a formal party?  No.  This will be a strictly casual affair—happy thing.

Sure, I hope you’ll miss me.  Saying good-bye is difficult when you’re the one being left behind. If there’s pain, let it come.  Don’t fight it.  Just sit with it. But not too long.  Because, there’s way too much life yet to live. I mean, I know there are times when life is difficult and there were times when I disappointed you, times when I hurt you. But I hope those careless, impatient, weary times, (sometimes I was just hungry) you can forgive.  I hope you can bask in the memories of our joys, our laughter, our shared victories and maybe even our struggles.

I honestly don’t really know if I’ll see you again. I hope so.  But there are mysteries in this world, things that are uncertain.   Like if something really fell from the sky and they actually did recover alien bodies and they’re covering it all up.  I’ve learned to live with mysteries, mostly.  Maybe even learn to revel in them.  But, like I said, I hope so—that I will see you again. But if I don’t, then just know this life was enough. It was perfect—beautiful—even in its mysteries and imperfections.  Remember that.

I hope it’s a long time from now.  But if for some sudden unexpected reason, it’s not, I wanted you to know.

When the day comes.

The Lessons and The Teachers

When the tears won’t

come

or the ache won’t

leave;

 

When that

hollow

cavernous place,

deep within in my belly,

cannot

be

filled;

 

When everything,

everything,

that once was is now nothing,

nothing more than a memory,

taunting;

 

When the road before me seems like  an

endless,

barren,

desert,

and when my restless thoughts

are but a frightened mare,

racing,

racing blindly,

alone,

alone into the darkness;

 

And when, for a moment,

just one moment,

I think I hear that voice,

and my heart leaps,

and I’m suddenly awash,

bathed in hope,

hearing the vague tune of

reprieve;

 

Or when familiar footsteps are

nothing,

nothing more than deceit,

the vain deceit

of

unfulfilled dreams;

 

And when grief,

wretched beautiful grief,

swells within me,

like the

boiling

hot

waters

of some fissure far beneath the surface,

waiting,

waiting to erupt;

 

I know.

Yes.

Yes, I know.

 

And somehow,

Somehow,

despite it all,

I smile,

overwhelmed with gratitude,

gratitude for these lessons

and

for the ones who taught them.

Unexpected Grace

 

Sarah hoped her face wasn’t red.  She kept her gaze downward, desperately trying to avoid making eye contact.  Her sins were public now.  A few people had admonished her, but most of the judgment came in the way of averted eyes and insincere smiles.  Even Jade, who had steadfastly supported Sarah during some of her worst days, had finally given her that how could you, Sarah? look.

 

As she walked into the room, Sarah could feel the heat of shame rising within her.  The walk across the room seemed endless.  Dead man walking.  Just get to your chair, she told herself.  She made it to her seat and breathed a silent sigh of relief then faked a good morning nod to several of the people already gathered at the table.  Thank God, she wasn’t the last one into the conference room.

 

When Ross walked in, all smiles and charisma, everyone’s attention turned to him. His entrance was, as always, a bit of theatre. Everyone loved Ross.  His way with people was as effortless as his seeming grasp of all things business.  He was perfect.  A Greek hero without the tragic flaw. Adam before biting into the apple.  Sarah wondered if she might be Eve soon to be banished from Eden, but alone.

 

Sarah tried to pay attention to the litany of performance measures Ross was spewing.  New clients.  Revenue per client.  Average daily sales revenue.  She was busily making notes in her planner, while her mind was on other things.  Did her parents know?  Would her marriage survive?  Would there be a please see me after the meeting moment soon to be followed by a blank-faced HR staffer sent their to deliver the message, We’re grateful for your work, but considering the circumstances…

 

“So what do you guys think we should do?” Ross asked the group.  “Any thoughts, Sarah?’

 

God.  He must not know.  There’s no way he would ask me if he knew.  Doesn’t he read the paper?  Or look at the internet.  Maybe, he’s just trying to embarrass me.  But that’s not him.  He couldn’t possibly know. 

 

“Um.  I’m sorry, Ross.  Could you repeat the question?  I was making notes and I’m not quite sure what you want me to comment on.”

 

Later, Sarah wouldn’t be able to remember what it was she had been asked or how she had answered the question.  But she must have managed to say something that satisfied him.  When the meeting came to it’s merciful end, she couldn’t decide whether racing out the door, feigning the need to be somewhere, or pretending to add things to her list of Things to Do Today. Unfortunately, her hesitation only left her mired in the bog of humanity all trying to get out the door at the same time.

 

Just as she thought she had freed herself from the glass-walled prison, she heard Ross call her name.

 

“Sarah.  Hey, Sarah.  Hang on.  Can I walk with you.”

 

Here it comes.  He knows.  She muttered a curse under her breath, tried to reassure herself that she had a good bit in savings and maybe a fresh start in another career would be good no matter what circumstances had led to it. Sarah braced herself for the onslaught when Ross closed the door to her office behind him.

 

“Look, Ross. I’ll save you the trouble.  I’ve already typed up my resignation.  I’ll clean out my—“

 

“Whoa.  Whoa, whoa, whoa.  Wait a minute.  Who said anything about a resignation?”

 

“I know what I’ve done.  I know it looks bad—and that the company can’t run the risk of bad press from my foolishness, from this dumpster fire I’ve set in my life.”

 

“Hang on, Sarah.  Just hang on a second.  I’m not here to ask for your resignation.  And I’m not here to throw any stones or give you any lectures.  I’m sure you’ve had plenty of that already.  I’m guessin’ your weekend was pretty close to horrible.”

 

Moisture pooled at the corner of Sarah’s wide eyes.  She said nothing, fearing that an attempt to speak would lead to her coming completely unhinged.

 

“Look, I’m not gonna sugarcoat this.  Yeah, I’ll admit the possibility someone over my pay grade will want to avoid the risk of getting embroiled in your personal situation.  But the truth is, the last thing you need right now is judgment.  The stuff you’re going through is difficult enough.  And I’m pretty sure you’re beating yourself up already.  And some people are gonna want to abandon you. I just don’t want to be one of those people.  That’s all I wanted to say.”

 

Sarah had prepared herself for almost everything except this.  Compassion?  Understanding?  Given what she had done, they had never figured into her calculus.

 

“I—I don’t know what to say, Ross.  I mean—thank you.”

 

“There’s no need to thank me, Sarah.  None of us are perfect.  Heaven knows, I’ve slid along the razor’s edge of calamity myself.  Most of us, if we are honest, live no more than a few decisions away from being in situations similar to yours.  Maybe it might be a different kind of trial, but the magnitude of them would be about the same.

 

“When people go through something like what you’re going through, well, they just don’t think how vulnerable they really are.  Admitting that would just be too frightening for most people.  So they hide behind their pride when humility and compassion would be so much more appropriate.  Not the kind of trite “but for the grace of God,” kind of humility or “bless her heart” sort of counterfeit compassion that is so commonplace.  I’m talking about the real deal.  The kind of humility and compassion that might cost them something.”

 

Sarah offered Ross a smile of gratitude as a tear rolled down her cheek.

 

“Any way, if HR calls me, I will be the first one to defend you.  I can’t promise you any more than that—except that I will shoot straight with you.  Fair enough?”

 

“Fair enough, Ross.”

 

“Now, I gotta go see who I can boss around today. You should get to work, too.  I know it will be hard to concentrate but do your best.  And don’t forget to breathe.” With that, he smiled, pivoted, and left Sarah to contemplate what had just taken place.

 

A few minutes later, Jade was at Sarah’s doorway.

 

“You okay?” she asked, her voice full of repentance.

 

“I’m okay,” said Sarah.

 

“What did he say?”

 

“Not much.  But just the right thing.”