Thursday, May 16, 2013

Poison ivy and compassion

Though I'm not insensitive enough to say to someone suffering, "There is a reason for this, " I guess I subconsciously believe every painful experience has a purpose. When I experience a challenge or a difficulty, I immediately attempt to divine the purpose for myself. When I was not offered a scholarship to the grad school of my choice, I figured this must mean something, like that I shouldn't go, or maybe that the scholarship is meant for someone who needs it more, has more debt, etc. When my husband got a job 500 miles away, I figured I needed to learn to let go of control (still in progress...)

But when I got terribly poison ivy for the second time in a couple years, I just didn't know why. What in the world could possibly be the purpose of feeling unbearably itchy, losing sleep for two weeks, becoming paranoid that everything I touch still has some of the residue oils on it and will continue to infect me? Why would this happen, cosmically!?

There's no good explanation. So maybe I need to reorient my "there is a purpose for all pain" paradigm, and ask instead, "how can I learn and grow from whatever happens?"

For a long time, I've had a superiority complex about my health. I don't get sick very often. Until a couple years ago, I didn't even have any allergies. I logically know that this is not my own doing, but it's hard for me to have patience and compassion when people get sick. I tend to get annoyed. I don't relate.

So what I'm going to draw from this whole poison ivy thing is not "I got poison ivy for the purpose of teaching me a lesson" but rather to hope some good can come from this seemingly meaningless annoyance. I know how much it sucks to be incapacitated by a physical ailment. That it affects your sleep, your ability to carry out chores, your interest in deep conversation, your ability to be a good listener, your patience for sitting in a car or waiting in a line, your motivation to keep in touch with out-of-town friends, your motivation to greet new people, put a smile on your face, reach out, pray, read, focus, accomplish, enjoy....

When this is all over (which, if it does not happen in a few more days, I might emerge less one or two limbs) I hope I'll have a little more empathy for people who are sick.

And I will NOT take for granted that first night of non-itchy sleep....

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