Monday, 19 July 2010
Coping with the Narrow Confines of Life
The photo is to show you post-vinyl music fans what I mean when I say that I feel as if, yet again, the needle has settled into a tight inside groove in the record of my life. At present life has shrunk to a fairly small circle, where comings and goings are circumscribed by health issues, but with a lot of lovely ordinary things holding it all together.
Like many another my life has followed a pattern of moving back from time to time into the "narrow" times of illness, and can I say for the record that this is something I don't think anybody ever gets used to. I say this because even my mother who had been there through a lot of thick and thin with me, once stunned me by commenting when I'd rung her to say that I was going into hospital , " Well, you're used to it."
No I never am, never will be, 'cos it's not something I will ever settle for, and a large part of me always thinks somehow this is all a great big mistake, and any minute reality will kick in and it'll all be o.k.
All that said I don't want you to think that my life has been all illness. I've had a life far more wide and varied than you would expect if you saw my medical history written down. I still chuckle when I think of the time I took my daughter to see a consultant and the referring doctor had obviously put my medical history in the introductory letter because when he had read it this chap leaned over his desk and asked me sympathetically "Where is the mother now?"
The look on his face when I said "Well I'm the mother", was really satisfying.
So. yes, there have been wide lovely grooves to my life as well as tight ones.
Unexpected journeys of discovery, miracles of healing, (literally), and amazing richness, if not by the world's standards then by mine.
I can't say at times I haven't resented the comparative narrowness of my life, or envied others their wider horizons. For the longest time my biggest regret was that I didn't fulfill my academic ambitions or even finish school properly, but I've packed in as much as I could in later years, and will never lose the thirst to learn while the little grey cells keep firing, so that's o.k.
The gift, and the trial, of the times in life where one is pushed back into narrow confines is the forced leisure to reflect. In all honesty I have to confess that for me there have been times of what seemed like utter despair and loneliness, yet looking back I see that there always was just enough light in what seemed like deepest darkness.
For me as a Christian, that light has been the presence of a God who has touched every area of suffering, and is in this with me, but it hasn't always felt like that by any means. It's not uncommon to find that things are not what we feel they are though is it?
So I'd say the tight circles in life can become deep wells where we can learn a lot about ourselves; about the immense inner reserves of strength that are inherent in being human, and about the astounding fact that nothing viewed up close, is at all ordinary.
The tighter the circle the more beautiful and meaningful do the very small things in life become. Only last week I read about a young man who, when in good health, had extracted the promise from his father that should he ever be dependent on life support, his was to be allowed to die.
Somehow what he had feared came about, and he was on full life support, completely paralyzed and about to have his wishes fulfilled and his life support cut off, when he responded to being asked should he be allowed to live, with an infinitely small movement of his eyes. This perfectly ordinary automatic reflex which in the wider context of normal life goes unremarked became his means to signal, not once but repeatedly, that he did indeed want to live. In the face of what he most dreaded he had found there was still something worthwhile in inhabiting his severely restricted body.
You may be flying in a really wide and beautiful groove just now, or you may be chafing in the narrow confines of your mind or body, but whichever it is do take the time to home in on something, maybe something small and mundane, and open yourself to see it in a new way.
It is rare indeed that there is no small scrap of comfort or of beauty to lift our spirit. Perhaps there is something near at hand that you've been missing.