Are you in pain?
Not just the emotional or relational or physiological or existential pain that most of us will feel sometime in our lives. But the purely physical stuff – especially the chronic, ongoing kind that can accompany you for many years.
It can be such a challenge to live with. The constant nagging of your nerves or muscles can really get you down. It can strip your life of joy. It can transform you from who you once were to someone you no longer recognise. It can leave you feeling empty and pointless. Or angry and alone.
But there is hope.
Even if there are no physical or pharmacological solutions left to you. Even if you may have to live with some degree of pain for the rest of your life. Even if it’s been the hardest road you’ve ever walked down. Or crawled… There is hope.
For there are a number of therapeutic approaches that can really help you through this. They can help you make all the difference. And invite some of the beauty, some of the life, back into your days.
So let’s take a look at a few…
You know those times when the same message keeps on turning up in your life? Over and over? Where you keep recognising the same idea in many different places (and you know you could apply it to yourself)? Well, I’m having one of those times.
And the message is about editing. Cutting back. Slicing off the excess to leave some empty space.
To leave more room for simply living.
(Something in me relaxes even just thinking about it – how about you?)
So let’s have a look together for a moment and see what you might have to gain by losing some things…
Anger. It’s got a pretty bad reputation. And we’re often told what to do with it: be careful with it. Suppress it. Vent it. Override it. It’s like anger’s some kind of volatile, toxic force to be harnessed or defused.
But maybe there’s another way of looking at it altogether.
Maybe you can actually learn from anger. Listen to it. See what it has to tell you. Get curious about it.
The sticker in the photo (above), in a cleverly vandalised train carriage I travelled in recently, has another suggestion for how to respond to anger:
“If anger is present
rove to another age”
So let’s take another look at anger for a moment.
I couldn’t help but smile when I walked past this building in my neighbourhood recently. There’s something beautifully absurd about a sign announcing “OFFICE” above a doorway that’s then been completely bricked-in. I wonder if they get much business…?
Yet what’s not so funny is how you might be doing this to yourself, to your life, at times. How you might be walling-off the very opportunities or happenings you’d like to take place. How you might be sending messages out there – to others, to yourself – that completely, unwittingly, contradict your dreams. And maybe even stop them from having a chance.
So let’s take a look behind the brickwork for a moment and see what’s going on…
I had a set of spare keys cut yesterday, so I can store them at a friend’s place in case I lock myself out. And it got me thinking…
What about the keys to your internal spaces?
The keys to your thoughts, your dreams? Your ups your downs? Your emotional and psychological home. How many people in your life have access to the inner sanctum of you? Who’s got keys?
It’s worth having a look at this every now and then, to assess if your levels of security or accessibility have changed or need updating. To find out if more – or perhaps less – people have access to you than you might have thought (or that you might hope for).
All of this points to the idea of boundaries. About psychological safety and connection with others. Of striking a balance between being locked away in an isolated tower of ‘safety’ alone, or being completely enmeshed where you’re sort of ‘access all areas’ for everyone that happens along.
There’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer for this stuff. It’s just about finding out what’s right for you. For now.
So let’s take a moment just now to ponder…
Have you ever felt sometimes that your life was going ’round in circles? That you were stuck on some broken record? Repeating the same cycles – the same patterns? I know I have.
And it can be frustrating. Dizzying. Maddening. And hard to know what to do about it.
So what are some options?
Well, maybe it depends on how you look at it…
Storytelling seems to be written so deeply into us. We’ve done it for millennia, to capture knowledge and wisdom and heart. Yet stories aren’t only verbal. They’re visceral, too. They’re the lived-out stories of our days.
So what kind of story are you telling with your life?
Where might the story of you be headed right now?
(And is that where you’d like it to go?)
When you pull back from the minutiae and dialogue of the everyday, what themes seem to emerge off your pages? Are there patterns re-visited across time?
And as the author of this particular story, this particular life, what does all of that mean for you?
Let’s delve into the pages for a moment.
If you’ve read this blog a bit, you’ll know I often draw on existential therapy and how the idea of death – and really engaging with it – can help you live a more vivid life.
But this time I don’t just want to talk about ideas. I want to talk about the nitty gritty stuff. The real stuff. The physical realities of this dying business; and the way that many of us in the western world will probably die (and whether that even gets close to how we might like to die when we finally do).
Because it’s important stuff to talk about.
And, as Jean Kittson put it: “there are no Apps for this stuff.”
I’ve spent the last few days at a conference on palliative care* with some really inspirational people (doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, volunteers, pastoral care workers and therapists) who all work with life and death. Who aspire to help us all “live until we die.” Who are guided by principles like these:
“You matter because you are you.
You matter to the last moment of your life.
We’ll do all we can, not only to help you die peacefully,
but to LIVE until you die.”
- Dame Cicely Saunders, Hospice Movement Founder
So let’s talk…
Sometimes life is just challenging. Hard, even. Just when you think you’ve got plenty to deal with, along comes even more. Right on time.
It can start to swamp you. Overwhelm you.
That’s what this photo reminds me of (above). A street art tsunami coming for you at the end of a no-through-road. It can feel hard to escape…
So what can you do to help yourself through the overwhelm? How can you get through life’s no-through-roads?