When I was serving as an election judge, I met a host of characters- namely the people who served with me as judges. As is true when one is in a group, there was one election judge who drove the rest of the judges crazy; she was very busy, running from station to station acting "in charge" and "helpful" but basically got everything mixed up. Another judge leaned over to me and whispered, "Look at her, running all over the place, acting like she knows it all. I hope she is really achy tomorrow morning."
In some ways why should a healthy "young" (age any more is all relative) woman be crippled the next morning from just standing and moving around? Shouldn't we be able to move in the way we were built without any indication of a problem? I thought of the difference between exercising and experiencing sore muscles and injuring one's body causing excruciating pain.
I like it when my muscles are sore. It reminds me that I have used them and that they are still working. I know that in a day or two I will feel okay. I might need to foreshorten the achy feeling with an over-the-counter pain reliever but generally the aches will lesson and eventually go away over time.
But what about true pain? What does that really feel like? After all, pain is subjective. (I think that I must have a high tolerance of pain for I cannot truly remember a time of can't-catch-my-breath type of pain.) With true pain, it doesn't go away. The injury generally doesn't heal by itself or at least properly and some type of intervention is needed; either in the form of surgery, more potent prescribed pain relievers or other types of medicine.
And so I thought about the metaphorical aches and pains in our life. What about problems or difficulties we experience? Can they be seen as an ache or pain? An ache and even a pain can be a good thing- it can be a warning sign that things are not right, like a broken bone or that a danger needs to be avoided, like the pain from a flame or an indication that an exercise needs to be lessened.
Are the problems something that are just stretching me or are they issues that are causing true injury? Am I growing stronger through the process or is it weakening my resilience and hindering any healing? If I ignore this ache or pain will I be maimed, stunted or disfigured like a bone that has not been reset? Do I need to remove myself from the cause of the pain or ache? Or do I need some other type of intervention?
I think of pain as the really big issues of emotionally traumatic experiences. Those issues that need major intervention through a medical doctor or psychiatrist- abuse, rape, witnessing trauma, war survivors, severe grief. Most times, any "home remedy" or "over the counter" type of intervention are ineffective for the treatment of this type of pain.
I think of most things in my life as emotional aches. These are relatively temporary problems that have a way of annoying me by reminding me of their mere presence. It is through those smaller problems though I can get tripped up. Like the nagging twinge I may experience in my lower back whenever I stand too long, these emotional aches can linger and before I know it, become part of who I am. Those emotional aches color my view on life, on other people and what I can and cannot do. I don't even question that there can be another better reality for my achy back.
When I have emotional aches, I need to assess whether this a temporary condition or one that is not going away and may develop into a chronic pain. I then need to figure out some type of intervention: talk with a friend, relative or counselor. I may need to learn some new ways to coping with this emotional twinge.
I can also call aches in my life, opportunities for growth and strengthening. When I want my physical muscles to develop, the process of stretching them will cause them to ache. "No pain, no gain". When we stretch our muscles, we experience small microscopic tears in those muscles. It is the process of healing those tears that builds and strengthens the muscle wall, developing stronger muscles that can carry more, endure activity more, and support our frame.
Emotional aches provide me with opportunities for growth. I learn things about myself and others as I experience the disappointments, frustrations and trials of life. Emotional aches provide me with opportunities to strengthen relationships. As I go through my emotional aches, I can reach out to others in similar situations- sharing my experiences, encouraging others to press on and celebrating with them when the aches lesson.
What about you? Do you suffer from emotional or physical aches and pains? Have you sought any treatment? Has that changed your perspective or view of the issues? What steps can you do today to get some pain relief?
As much as I don't want physical or emotional aches and pains, I am glad that I can experience it. It underscores that I am alive. As they say in the retirement community, "consider the alternative..."