When the kids were little, I discovered something about myself regarding the month of September. I am highly motivated and creative in September!! That means that left unchecked, I would gladly volunteer for roles in my kids school or in our neighbourhood or in our church. The reality is that a few weeks later, I would realize I had over-committed and would then need to back out of one or more of those roles. Since diagnosed with Endometriosis 20 years ago, pain has been a daily part of my life. But every September . . . I want to pretend it is not. I call it the "September Itch".
The thing is, I like the energy that September has. I like fresh starts and exciting changes.
One of the ways I learned to counter-act this 'itch' was to pre-plan my fall schedule. I'd take time in August to think through my responsibilities and fun ideas and take time to pray and ask for God's guidance. I'd talk it through with my husband and make sure that I included the time needed to manage my pain properly. So, one month ago, I did that.
But for the past few days, I've felt the itch returning. I know that scratching this 'itch' would be simple. There are a number of interesting and exciting-adrenaline-filled activities that I could do to ease the restlessness . . . but I know better.
Still, it itches.
John A. Martin, a Catholic priest who works at an alcohol and drug rehab center wrote a book called, "Blessed are the Addicts". He describes addiction in a way that causes us to consider the 'itches' in our lives to be a cause for seeking God's care for those restless places in our souls.
He writes, " The journey of recovery is humble because it deals with the present moment, the rich "now." How, you might ask can the "now" moment in the human being's life be humble? Most of our days are filled with un-meaningful things, events, people, and circumstances. In the days of active addiction, the person addicted would try to escape these "now" moments, which were dull and seemingly void of any possibility of expanding life, by taking drugs. In recovery, the addict learns that it is in these "now" moments, which in themselves are rather ordinary and even dull, that he will find the source and the resource for the the greater things in life that he really seeks." (p. 110)
So, this 'itch' I feel regarding wanting to add exciting activities to my schedule even though I have carefully pre-planned my fall semester in a methodical and prayerful way, indicates something deeper.
If I am honest today, I admit that living with pain feels boring, and un-meaningful at times and perhaps I am falling behind my peers and where I should be in life. It involves much self-care which takes time and lacks a sense of 'productivity' which is so much easier to talk about in social settings. I see new and exciting things starting all around me and I sometimes struggle to do simple routines that other people do with ease. This is frustrating and discouraging especially in September.
One of the things that I have learned to appreciate about a chronic pain disease is that it keeps returning. Of course, I don't like the pain but it has forced me to remain present in the physical pain. I can't fix it. I can't make it go away. I can seek comfort in heat or medications or rest or different treatments, but I must learn how to live and love while physical pain exists.
The same is true for emotional pain. I must learn how to live in it, not run from it, not pretend it is not there and definitely not choose an addictive option to dull the pain. Avoiding it doesn't help and masking it with adrenaline-exciting-happy activities, no matter how good or religious they seem, doesn't reach down to the depths of the cry of my soul.
Jesus understands suffering, all kinds. He endured it and did not cover it up. He invites us to meet him in prayer - in honesty. Listen to his gentle invitation:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 The Message (MSG)
So, back to the itch.
The plan? Don't scratch. Admit it is there, admit there is temptation to make it feel better and ask God to help you identify what your tempting 'drug' of choice is (shopping, chocolate, alcohol, productivity, being useful, more money, status?). Instead, accept His invitation to come to Him as you are . . . and allow Him to teach you the unforced rhythms of grace.