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Immerse Week 45 – Gratitude for Pain

During this week you’ll embrace your pain, feeling grateful that it came to you and not your children, and you’ll find creative ways to connect your daily life with a deeper value.

When in pain, try to find gratitude that the pain came to you and not your children.

Dear friend,

I saw Chris, a sixty-five-year-old auto mechanic from rural Washington, as a walk-in patient on a Friday afternoon. He complained of water blisters at the bottom of his right foot. They had started a few weeks before. He also had long-standing diabetes. Chris said, “They don’t hurt or nothin’; my wife just doesn’t like the smell.” The moment he removed his shoes, it was clear what we were dealing with. Chris had a serious foot infection. When I touched his feet, he had no pain. In fact, he could hardly feel my fingers. Chris needed aggressive antibiotic treatment, and during surgery a small metal fragment was found in his “water blister.” He never felt it. He ended up losing his foot, partly because he had lost the feeling of pain in his feet.

Every millimeter of our skin has touch, pain, and temperature receptors, ready to alarm us of potential danger. Some areas are more sensitive than others. When I step on a sharp nail, even before I can consciously feel the pain, my spinal reflex removes my foot. My system is always on guard for physical (and emotional) pain.

I need my pain. By sounding its alarm, the pain nudges me to act to protect my being from physical or psychological injury. Yet pain is distinctly unpleasant. I don’t like to be in pain, particularly when I struggle to find meaning in it.

I can often find (or sometimes imagine) meaning in my pain, particularly when it isn’t excruciating, doesn’t become my fellow traveler for long, and does alert me about a real issue. But I struggle with finding meaning in the pain that hurts little children. They are guileless and innocent. Why should nature allow them to be in pain?

Further, like in all humans, my brain can’t tell the difference between personal pain and the pain of someone I care about. As a result, seeing innocents in pain hurts me even more than my own pain.

I would love to always be pain-free. I know that isn’t likely to happen. I wish most of my days are free of excruciating pain. I also hope my pain has meaning that justifies it. If I ever came to know that my pain prevented someone innocent from getting hurt, I would feel truly privileged. For now I find great relief in thinking that my pain came to me and not my children (or any other child). I pray I accept my every pain with this thought. I also pray that innocents never be in pain.

May the hurts you endure today not have the power to dismantle your commitment to gratitude and compassion.

Take care.

@AmitSoodMD (on Twitter

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