With all the talk of peace on Earth, tidings of good cheer and the overall ongoing celebration of Christmas and Hanukkah, it’s got me thinking about other Judeo-Christian principles that absolutely each of us can learn from. But allow me first, if you will, to share a recent, quite personal — and well, if I do say so myself — painful yet still somewhat humorous story…
It’s been a little more than a month now. It was Thanksgiving Day. The sun was shining, the family gathered, and gratitude was the most prevalent, collective disposition. We joyfully went about completing each of our tasks, knowing the combination of our individual contributions would soon lead to an alluring feast. Suffice it to say, anticipation was joyful and high.
My youngest — as has been much accounted for here — was quite proud of his contribution. This was the year young Master Josh would make the infamous turkey day delicacy — aka “green bean casserole” — most all by himself. As a maturing 21 year old with special needs, he was greatly thrilled to independently complete his chosen tasks.
You drain the beans, pour them into the 13”x 9” pan, empty in the cans of creamy soup, add some spice, and then adorn the dish with those crispy fried onions approximately 5 minutes prior to expected completion. Donning the bakers mitts in each hand, he was visibly excited to remove his favored side from the oven.
As he placed the pan on top of the stove, wanting to affirm his independence, I said, “We should celebrate. High five?”
To which he said, “I think it’s worth more than that. How about a chest bump?”
So chest bump it would be. I made the mistake of assuming Josh knew exactly how to do that.
While I jumped up vertically in front of the oven, Josh assumed a little more of a horizontal angle in his exuberance. One could say, in fact, that his chest bump was instead more of a body slam, therefore knocking me backwards while in air, causing me to stumble some 10 feet backwards, eventually colliding with the base of a very nice but also very firm chair. With the onset of immediate pain and soon x-ray confirmation, our Thanksgiving proceeded with two lateral left broken ribs.
Let me share for those who have not experienced such a fate, broken ribs are painful. I have a whole new respect for the cringing quarterback who lies prostrate on the gridiron after a full frontal hit. There’s no way to immobilize the bone; you simply have to deal with it (… I’d say “grin and bear it” but only the latter is consistently true). There’s really nothing you can do to fix the fracture except attempt to numb the pain. But the bottom line is that it typically takes somewhere between 6 weeks to 3 months to heal. Sitting here at the keyboard, it still stings as we speak now.
It prompted me to think about those Judeo-Christian principles, specifically about the centuries old idea of being a “thorn in the flesh” or a “thorn in the side” — in other words, “a source of continual annoyance or trouble.” What do we do with that nagging pain that just won’t go away?
Maybe the pain is a wound. Something that hurts. Maybe it’s a person. Someone who hurt you. Maybe it’s a situation or circumstance, too.
Let me be a little more transparent. It would be easy to moan and complain about how difficult this has been. It was in fact 4 weeks before 2 hours of continuous deep sleep was possible, as there is no comfortable way in which to be dormant for hours. Many basic movements (think breathing, coughing or the dreaded, ill-fated sneeze) are also unpredictably painful.
Not only would it be easy to complain, it would also be easy for the numerous, no doubt wonderful, empathetic and compassionate persons that surround me to encourage and relate by uttering how understandable such is. I love that about them.
But it’s made me think about how a reframe of the thorn or continual annoyance or in this case, the fracture of the 6th and 7th rib could be beneficial. What if instead of focusing on the pain, I pondered if there was any purpose? What if I then focused on the potential purpose as opposed to on whom or what I deemed responsible? And what could happen if the ongoing ache prompted and reminded me that I can learn and grow from what hurts? And… what hurts bad…
Don’t allow me to act as if I’ve got this all figured out. I don’t. Not even close. And many days, often sleep-deprived, the temptation to complain only increases. But I’ve been thinking… pondering… could there be any thing I could use the pain for… to remind me… to persevere… to give thanks knowing it could be worse.
No neat answer here, friends. The only known conclusion thus far is that Josh and I decided we will always celebrate the making of the green bean casserole. Granted, we will be teaching him how to chest bump first.