On weaknesses and blessings, by Hannah. While I have been called as headstrong as Joan of Arc, and despite having a background in dance and a few sports, I have never been a person particularly gifted with physical strength. My husband sometimes jokingly refers to me as the “pain monster” – meaning that I am almost always in some kind of pain. Whether it’s accidentally dropping a suitcase on my hip the evening after getting married (leaving a giant purple bruise that didn’t quite match my expectations of bridal skin-care), twisting my feet, a toothache, a fever, catching pneumonia – and so on and so on.. it’s his tongue-in-cheek nickname for his sickness-prone wife.
I remember also as a child when I used to wish that I had been born in the “pioneer days”, as I called it.. having read Little House on the Prairie a few times convinced me that growing up in the countryside and churning butter by hand must be much more interesting than playing video games with my younger brothers in the (then) 20th century.
My mom brought me back to reality when she said something to the extent of “if you had been born back then, you would have been a pale, wraith-like thing who would probably have been bedridden or died of some illness”. Since then, I have become more thankful for 21st century comforts and medical advances.
Dizziness, sudden weakness, and other such issues affect my life, and make their way into my daily patterns.. I have learned how to better plan out mealtimes and have good nutrition to combat some of these. I also train at the gym to stay as physically fit as possible.
Yet, no matter how much health advice friends may offer, there is no “miracle fix”. The doctor says to reduce my stress – but this is hardly a prescription that one can take each morning along with a glass of water.
Reduce stress.. gulp.. done.
Rather, one thing I am learning each day is that it is important to accept weakness.
My husband has been a great help with this. When I become frustrated at my inability to be as strong as I want to be, he tells me that pain and weakness have a purpose. Pain teaches me to be like Jesus. Pain is a gift- and there is no hurry to get better. No pressure to be healed. I can be weak, and no less in the place that God wants me to be.
I told this to myself as I sat in the Hokenshitsu (school nurse’s office) with another fever, and my third time sick within four months. My Type-A personality filled with anxiety – Why can’t I stay well? Am I going to be alright at work tomorrow?
Amidst my worries, it dawned on me suddenly- why do we think we are owed health? As human beings, it is easy to become short-sighted.. to forget the miracle of existence, much less of waking and breathing and thinking, and every human function which we can in no way demand. We think of health as if it were indispensable.. and it is helpful and wonderful, but its absence can also have great meaning.
I think of all of the things I have gained from being sick –
- Greater empathy
- Deeper love for my husband, who has cared for me when I was unwell
- Increased creativity, since I had more time to think
- A chance to chat with friends or family overseas, at times that I would normally miss the chance due to my work hours
- Time to think about my priorities
- And etc.
I realize how much my dislike of pain can be rooted in my own selfishness – being sick is inconvenient, uncomfortable, annoying, or makes me feel too helpless or not good enough. Pain is the thorn in my perfectionist nature, and an assault to my pride. My husband reminds me to “stop comparing yourself to others” who are stronger or healthier.
“You are not them. You are you. Your life is a blessing. Pain is a blessing.” I know he’s right. But I also laugh to myself, because I can hear the Princess Bride playing in the back of my mind –
“Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something”.
My sarcastic side might be tempted to echo Princess Buttercup – “you mock my pain!“. However, I feel far too happy to feel discontent.
Life is pain – but it is also a blessing.. and I am blessed.