The Gift of Suffering

I have not written in this blog for many months but now I am committing myself to write every day if possible. I usually hate it when bloggers make that announcement, but here are my reasons. In mid-December I began to have intense pain in my back, neck, and shoulders that came and went whenever I typed or wrote. This, I believe, was brought on by the huge number of papers I had to grade (including a new self-evaluation Portfolio assignment) and the rush job a client gave me to edit her interview and an article She had written. My body just couldn’t take it anymore. By January 20th the pain was almost nonstop and became excruciating. I had to apply for a leave of absence from my teaching at UCI. Since then I have had to endure doctors’ visits, scans, trips to specialists, blood work, physical therapy, etc. as we are trying to get to the bottom of this. Thankfully, I have seen significant improvement, but some days it still really hurts and it takes a great deal to write anything, sit at my computer, or even sit anywhere. I’ve spent a lot of time lately standing up.
I lost my beautiful singing voice three and a half years ago and had to have two surgeries to get my speaking voice back, but I can’t sing very much anymore and as a trained opera singer, that really grieves me. Now I began to panic, thinking that I had lost my other talent, writing. I was in despair.
I kept asking myself, “Why? Why after all I’ve gone through, recovering from cancer three times over the last 11 years, was this suffering sent to me? I always try to find meaning in whatever happens to me, and finally I found the gift. Everyone writes about their victories over adversity, but does anyone write about the intense suffering that slaps you to the floor and makes you cry out in agony, again and again because you feel so helpless?
Overcoming cancer three times and doing it with such courage and refusal to give up has made me an inspiration and an encouragement to everyone I know. So often I’ve heard the words, “I was having a terrible time in my life. Then I remembered everything you’ve been through and how you never gave up and how you won the battle with grace and gratitude. And I felt that my suffering was nothing compared to yours. I knew that if you could do it, I could do it.”
I realized that I was being brought to a new level of awareness through pain. The best teachers, the best comforters are those who have experienced in their own bodies intense pain. Pain is something that is inescapable. You can’t make it go away. So now, because I have no choice, I am using all of my creativity to find a way to move through pain. It can be done. You can learn to move through it. I will write more about this tomorrow because I hurt too much to keep writing.
What I did want to share today is that while I was up in the laundry room, pulling my clothes out of the drier, which hurt terribly. I began to think about Christ and his final words as he died on the cross, “It is finished.” It struck me that this was such an amazing statement. He came to earth to teach us and do many, many things. And he knew that he had accomplished them all.
I wonder what happened to the people around him when he spoke those words. Did the heavens darken? Was there a thunderclap? Did a blinding light come out of Christ’s body?
To me, those words might be more accurately rendered as “It is completed,” because he had done all he came here to do. It was done. He could go home now.
I had a powerful vision a few years back where I saw myself lying in a simple room. I was 94 years old and I wasn’t sick or in any pain. I was just completely used up. I felt my soul lift from my body and rise up through the Milky Way. I met my mother in a preternaturally beautiful meadow and she took me to my soul group. They came dancing down the beach, saying, “You did it. Of all of us, you did everything you came here to do.” They hugged me and we had a big celebration.
Pain can be overcome. Although at times it feels like living hell, if we can only move through it and try to hear its voice, begin to find that lesson it came to teach us, we can receive unsuspected treasures. If you are in terrible pain right now, know that you are a warrior, an explorer into new worlds. Have faith that your pain will someday leave you, richer than before. This is all I can write today because I really hurt. But I feel happy because my pain took me to the place where I could say to myself, “Nothing again will anything stop me from writing.”
By making this decision, I am doing what I came here to do. And I’m happy with that.
Now I have a date with a big pack of ice.

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About Joy Parker

As a three-time cancer survivor and storyteller, I felt compelled to create this blog because I felt the need to connect with an audience and immediately share what I am learning as I am learning it. The material in this blog is serving as the basis for two books that I am writing. The first book talks about how illness is a vehicle that takes us into the unknown land, teaches us things we couldn’t otherwise learn, and then gives us the opportunity to bring them back to our community. It offers a compass and creates a map of the unknown land so that others might find their path more easily. Most important, it shares what I have learned about waking up and being truly alive in this magnificent world. That might sound simple enough, but the actual experience is devastatingly beautiful and powerful. The second project is a book with medicine cards discussing many of the lessons I’ve learned from my experiences with healing and as a healer, the indigenous world, and walking a spiritual path. Most important, it is the story of the development of my own personal mythology. People tend to think of myths as massive stories and beliefs that develop in a culture over hundreds or thousands of years. We now live in a time of crisis and we don’t have a hundred years. The time for healing and transformation is now, and we are the ones we have been waiting for.
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One Response to The Gift of Suffering

  1. Tayria Ward says:

    Joy, your words and your story are acutely inspiring. I am desperately sorry that you are in so much pain, and very grateful to you that you are sending out the love and the will to express yourself in the midst of it. I love your vision of completion and of meeting your mother. May those visions fill you with peace and courage. Sending much love, Tayria

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