An Old Enemy and a New Friend

If you’re in pain…

Don't Call Me Dumb

I’m back and rearing to go. Only I can’t move. I severely injured my back, or maybe reinjured it, and it’s got me immobile and miserable. Seems I don’t fully appreciate something until it’s gone—like a spine without bulging ruptures. Or medical insurance. But it’s not a wasted experience. So far I’ve shifted my thinking about an old enemy, and I’ve met a new inspiration that I want you to know too.

I’ve always classified pain as something to run from and avoid at all costs. I’ve viewed it as a mortal enemy. I was wrong. Pain is part of life. Avoiding it is avoiding life. That said, being in this much physical pain is horrific. It makes me edgy and despondent. Maybe if I had listened to its whisperings earlier I wouldn’t be suffering from all its screaming now. C.S. Lewis explained that: “Pain insists upon being attended to…

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An Old Enemy and a New Friend

I’m back and rearing to go. Only I can’t move. I severely injured my back, or maybe reinjured it, and it’s got me immobile and miserable. Seems I don’t fully appreciate something until it’s gone—like a spine without bulging ruptures. Or medical insurance. But it’s not a wasted experience. So far I’ve shifted my thinking about an old enemy, and I’ve met a new inspiration that I want you to know too.

I’ve always classified pain as something to run from and avoid at all costs. I’ve viewed it as a mortal enemy. I was wrong. Pain is part of life. Avoiding it is avoiding life. That said, being in this much physical pain is horrific. It makes me edgy and despondent. Maybe if I had listened to its whisperings earlier I wouldn’t be suffering from all its screaming now. C.S. Lewis explained that: “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

I’m hearing you, Pain. I’m listening now. I know now that you’re more of a frenemy than an enemy. You’re my body’s warning system that something is wrong and needs attending to. Little parts of nerve endings in my injured area are called nociceptors. When they are damaged they trigger a communication highway that moves through nerves, up the spinal cord, into the brain’s thalamus. It’s the sorting center that assesses and sends signals to other parts of your brain that control touch, emotion, physical reaction and memory. In short, my brain regulates the rest of me. Every part works to identify and report my pain so that I can best deal with it.

Now that I’ve made frenemies with my pain, I can appreciate what it’s telling me. I can be more empathetic with others who suffer. I can appreciate that pain is forcing me to be still when I want to get up and hike my snowy home town hills. Its severity warns me that this time, I might need more than bedrest if I’m going to get better and not worse. What I’ve got now is acute pain. What I do NOT want is chronic pain. All this lead me to discover that my Catholic friends have a patron saint for back pain. Her name is St. Gemma Galgani. When Gemma was a girl in 1898 she suffered what is believed to have been spinal tuberculosis. Unlike me, she endured with a jovial attitude and unwavering faith. She lay immobile for over a year, went through agonizing cauterizations, and was forced to wear a hideous iron back brace. She was at the doorstep of death when a miracle healed her—partly. For two months she was able to move and wear her brace before the atrophied muscles around her spine grew strong enough to serve her. Now she is a compassionate comfort and inspiration to all those suffering back pain.

I’m not Catholic, but St. Gemma inspires me. And pain isn’t something I detest anymore. I won’t be so quick to ignore its warnings. I won’t be so quick to mask its messages. I can recognize it as a gift from my Divine Designer to warn me and guide me.

I’ll be fine. I have a comfy bed. I have a son who went to Walgreen’s at midnight to get me a heating pad. I have a heart full of gratitude and faith that healing is possible. And my happy news in all of this is that if I can change my thoughts about an old enemy like pain, I can change my thoughts period. That friends, is my mission for a new and empowered life, and it’s nothing short of a miracle as real as St. Gemma Galgani casting off her brace and walking on her own.

Baby Brain Miracles

Yesterday I was honored to be present while my daughter ever-so-gracefully gave birth to my newest G-baby, Tomlyn Abree Rayne. I’m kinda squeamish, so I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch…you know, the actual birth part. But what an absolute wonder it was!

It took months of worry and curiosity…then it took anxiety filled days of anticipation, and an expectation that it would take hours and hours more, but in the end the whole thing happened with doctors running, nurses running, and Taylor championing through two minutes of the greatest imaginable miracle. Then she was here. Little Tomlyn blinked and looked around and found her mommy’s face and that was that. Eye-to-eye, heart-to-heart-skin-on-skin. We were all awestruck that something so tiny and new could be so wise and in charge. And so so so beautiful.

How can you NOT believe in a loving, all wise and perfect God when you’re privy to such wonder? Only four weeks into gestation, a baby’s brain is developing 250,000 neurons per minute. Billions and billions of links form between neurons and trillions of circuits weave their way right where they need to be. This is no haphazard act. This is perfection at its divinest.

Depending on how much stimulation lil’ Tomlyn can handle, her visual cortex and eyes will continue to develop. They are her introduction into this big ol’ marvel of a world. Over the next three years her brain will triple in size and develop more than 1,000 trillion neural connections. Her brain will prune itself of the connections that aren’t needed. Seriously. Prune itself. Her developing brain will hog half the calories Tomlyn consumes. Until she’s about five years old. When she starts to babble, the left side of her brain will literally “light” up. When she listens to her mommy and daddy sing to her, the right side of her brain will glow.

Tay has been using the right, or emotional side of her brain for the past months, preparing to bond with Tomlyn. If she’s been more forgetful than usual, that’s why. If she was more sensitive, that’s why. But now that the baby is here, her left or logical side is going to step it up. She’s going to recognize the baby’s facial expressions and the nuances in her cries. They’ll all sound the same to us, but not to Mama. She’ll know what Tomlyn needs. Her brain will tell her.

I could go on and on, but who wants to hear about neuroscience when there are baby toes to count? And cheeks to kiss. Check ‘em out. Tomlyn’s got cheeks for weeks. So I’m off, but I just had to pause long enough to share the great news that after all the fears, mother and baby are fine and dandy and our hearts are busting with gratitude. Hope that you’re all equally blessed.