We had sledded down a long hill in front of Nannas and Granddaddys house on a cold, snowy day. Our son Jonathan, myself, his mom, and aunt Kristie all piled up at the end of the run. Upon finally coming to a stop in a small snow bank, completely covered in snow, Jonathan, all of about 3 years old exclaimed, “I can’t see my face!”
I have discovered that even we as adults get our words and meanings all twisted. I write these words listening to it storm outside. It’s 2:30 in the morning and I am having a heck of a time seeing my face. It has been a long, lonely road. Friends and family that don’t know quite what to say or do, nor should they. Discrimination from potential employers for the predicament I have found myself in exists as I have tried to wrestle with my pain in a public arena only now to find out that they too follow my words as well. I had thought about deleting them but that would be as wrong as the discrimination I am facing for they reflect not just an excuse, not just a struggle, but they reflect a wrestling match between me and the almighty that eventually befriends all of humanity.
I could hide my face I suppose. Rather, what I have discovered is that, my face has been hidden like the snow that covered little Jonathans face. For if there are those who have sought to prejudge me from my words and limit their understanding of me because of the pain I wrestle with, so be it. Maybe on this day, at this dark, stormy morning, I am seeing my face and in spite of the shadow that pain has cast upon it, it is there.
After 14 years and over 21 surgeries and procedures now, I am finally managing my pain. No, not curing it, but managing it. I am firmly in agreement with Toby Keith, where he proclaims in one of his country songs, “I ain’t as good as I once was, but I’m as good once, as I ever was!” Doctors had helped me with pain meds; enough to kill a freak’n cow! Scripts were written free flowing from my pain management group and when I mentioned that I was taking my pain seriously enough to manage it in other ways, I was told that it was a good thing more patients didn’t do this because doctors would have no jobs. And I began to see an outline.
By the time you read this, I will have spent the day before methodically processing what I do. What I once took for granted I now have to intentionally order. I will have to manage my life conciously by what I do and don’t do. I am cleaning up our garage where for years I have simply put stuff down in it, unable to bend over and place it where it belonged. It is a mess but I am cleaning it up. And when the pain comes on, instead of grabbing something from the bottle, I meditate. I begin the process of stopping the onslaught of pain and use my mind and put myself somewhere else. And then I think I see a face, a face with so much potential, so much loss, so much promise.
The fence in the yard? Needs repair. No one is going to do it and the medical bills have piled up to the place where we can’t afford to have someone else to do it. It will be done a board at a time. And when I do the work, I will work for a while, and stop and meditate when the pain comes. And I see it: a face.
The rotten wood on the house? The paint has peeled off in places now and need to be replaced. The hole in my shop when the water comes through? I will repair it as well. The windows in our house? The ones that are cracked? I will fix those as well. And the birds? The birds that need finishing? The ones where when I try to complete and my hands that doctors have suggested need more cortizone and steroid shots to keep working? I will figure that out as well. And there it is; my face!
I recently have had some really good job interviews thinking that this was the fairy tale ending to my long road of pain. Jobs that would have helped us that I could do because what was required was as second nature to me as breathing. But after they have read my story, they thought differently and could not see my face. They could not see it for the veil of pain I have written about and have not understood the depth of my person. I can’t help them nor anyone else see my face. But the snow has melted. I am able. I am more hopeful. I still hurt. I can now see my face.