Do some conditions and circumstances carry more weight than others?

Some circumstances carry more weight than others.

Or at least we think they do.

Hey there, beautiful human. How are you dancing today through your busy, messy, sometimes easy, sometimes baffling, and sometimes just really hard life? Are you meeting yourself where you’re at, or are you agonizing over circumstances that you find just too hard to accept? Like chronic pain, for example?

When conditions stop you, or scare you, or just plain make you want to stomp your feet and say “No! Not this, no way,” it can feel like your access to joy, grace, and ease is blocked. Clarity gives way to confusion, and peace of mind feels like an impossible goal.

Take my physical body for example.

I’m in my 60s, and I get to walk around, greet the world, and do my work in a changing, battle-scarred body.

  • I’ve had some scary health issues for years, and this year brought my first-ever ambulance rides, visits to the emergency department, and now a series of tests to try and diagnose what’s going on.
  • I walk around in a body that has seemingly outlived some of its parts (I lost a fractured tooth at the end of last year, which has been really difficult for my vanity). I will say that it’s been hard to feel good about this particular circumstance. Unwilling to spend $6,000 on an implant has left me walking around with a gap in my mouth about which I am wildly self-conscious.
  • Living heedless of my own safety and that of others for as long as I did has left me with some long-term gifts: spinal stenosis, shredded ligaments, repetitive strain injuries, and more (a condition labeled chronic pain, or fibromyalgia pain, by my doctors).

Chronic pain is a hard one.

But what if that’s the good news?

Here’s what I think: when something that makes you feel so victimized and so weighed down by fear and worry and resentment can be met as it is, when you can meet yourself where you’re at with a sense of ease and perspective, miracles can happen.

I heard this decades ago in a 12-step meeting:

If we all put our problems (a.k.a. circumstances) in the center of this table, I promise you that you would pick up your own problems on the way out the door. (Think about it.)

This story is a reminder that things could always be worse.

I was recently interviewed for a podcast, and I recounted some of the mishaps that caused spinal stenosis in my body:

  • Driving on the wrong side of the road after being up for four days on amphetamines. I crested a hill, hit a parked car head-on, and totaled both cars. I took the steering wheel to my chin, nearly biting my tongue in half.
  • Driving four blocks out of my way on Quaaludes and alcohol, hitting a parked car head on (on the wrong side of the street); this time I took the steering wheel to my neck and smashed two fingers into the dashboard (this was in the 70s and those fingers hurt to this day). Totaled both cars again.
  • Fell out of a tree on LSD, landed on my head, and refused to be seen at the hospital (checked myself out of the emergency room against medical advice).

The podcast host (whose eyes were bugging out of his head just a bit) said “Well, at least you didn’t kill anybody.” That’s right, I didn’t kill anybody. But I could have. And that’s really important to remember. I could’ve killed someone. It could’ve been worse. It could have been much worse.

We all get a plate.

We all get a plate, and on that plate are the jewels through which we can transform ourselves. Life has no shortage of growth opportunities.

My plate — sometimes it feels like it’s overflowing with circumstances that are challenging, scary, and just plain tiring.

Some days my plate pisses me off and weighs me down.

Chronic pain

Some days what’s on my plate seems completely irrelevant to my level of joyful engagement with my life, my loved ones, and my work.

Some days it just feels like a dance, and I get to step lightly, move freely, let the music move through me, even when the choreography is unpredictable and unfamiliar.

How are you dancing with / moving through / meeting your circumstances?

If you too have chronic pain, or recurring challenging pain, or any kind of dis-ease, I invite you to join me and my friend Damian Mark Smyth on a free call on Monday, March 19th, at 10 a.m. Pacific — Chronic Pain: Leveling the Playing Field.

On the call, you’ll be invited to share your own experiences of dealing with chronic pain. If you’ve been wondering how to increase your sense of “living” — feeling happy, joyful, and free — and step away from feeling that life is mostly about “enduring,” “struggling,” and “suffering,” this call is for you.

Register for the free call here. See you then.

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I’m a barely tamed hippie, sage, seasoned, sarcastic (not all the time any more, but still). I’m a mom, a daughter, sister, a neighbor, and a friend. I’ve been on this meandering journey — like you, probably — seeking a better connection to and experience of peace, harmony, and fun in every bit of life. I’m single, quite good at it, and mostly love it. I’m here for the conversations I get to have with you, which these days center on exploring the mystery and beauty of life, work, health, aging, and creative expression. Want to know a little more about me and my journey? Explore the site. Read the blog. Connect with me on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.

Join the conversation!

  1. Having lived in chronic pain for many years, with a health issue that was diagnosed differently depending who I saw, I knew I had to find my own path forward and often had to make tough choices for myself. Choices others didn’t always agree with. I admit I tried so many things, that my mother (who only wanted me to be healthy and herself had not known illness) would say “Nothing is working!”. As it turned out, everything was working…it isn’t one thing. There is rarely a magic elixir or fix. For me, learning that my physical illness had a bigger spiritual component did help me transform it. I also believe that when I am not fully in my body, I often will have some unexpected short-term pain issue arise, until I deal with the underlying cause. Getting older is challenging and until we are experiencing it, we don’t relate to what our elders have told us about it. The good news is there are many more options to stay healthy and vital. My 102-year-old mother is an incredible example of what is possible as we get older! For her, it is attitude, attitude, attitude. Thanks for sharing your own insights and stories, Sue!

    • I love your mom’s approach and I am finding my own experience is absolutely the same. I noticed that again this week when the doctor was explaining my echocardiogram results to me. I wasn’t afraid; I honestly wasn’t afraid – that least until the amount of time she asked me Are you afraid? exceeded my ability to let it roll right off of me. Luckily I have other resources and once I used them I was able to settle back down again, back to the place where my attitude despite circumstances is allowing me to enjoy my day.

  2. Hi, Sue! It’s good to find your blog again. This is an amazing, honest, raw post. Thank you for your vulnerability. I hope that people who are living with chronic pain will find your words – so that they know they are not alone.

  3. Sue, very brave of you to share your story about your pain and some of the reasons it came about. I’m lucky in that I don’t have chronic pain but do live with some pain for which I have a routine and set of practices that have helped me.
    I hope that your story will serve as a inspiration in what to do and what NOT to do. Sometimes, people (myself included) believe that we’re invincible or immune to dangers or illness.
    After several health scares, both my husband and I take caring for ourselves very seriously and do as much as we possibly can to stay healthy. It’s a constant
    challenge in today’s world.

  4. Hi Sue, having lived with the pain of 21 surgeries over the 5 years of fighting breast cancer 3 times I realized Pain, Trauma, and illness can be the 3 Professors of Life. because, as you stated in different words, our biggest challenges in life are our best teachers. Loved your blog.

    • Hi Kathleen, while sister, that’s all a lot of surgery. Thanks for sharing your wisdom borne of your hard experience. I’m glad I’m not enrolled in this learning alone; I’m glad you’re here with me.

  5. Sue, I really enjoyed your gentle, beautiful energy on the video, and the insights you shared about what it can feel like to live with chronic pain. I also love your courageous and giving heart that shares the wisdom you’ve gained from your experiences with others. Thank you for being you, and for sharing your journey with so much authenticity, wisdom and grace.

  6. Sue I hear you and I feel blessed I haven’t suffered pain in the way you have. Funny as i was typing this, my back pain has surfaced. Something i haven’t felt since I was at the physio last week.
    I have been listening to Abraham Hicks when I have been driving and I know that the more I do focus on what i do want the easier it becomes.
    That is part of my secret to see myself as whole and healed. I relate closely to what Beverley has written .As you know I have had very serious challenges on the health front and now part of my healing is to write my book- well finish it.
    I am using a new healing way , that further down the track when I have results I will share with you
    Have relaxing weekend and hard as it is , as i found myself spiralling recently down a negative path, see that gratitude in everything- that move mountains for me love and hugs xoxo

    • Susie, you said it. Gratitude — and in my case, attitude — they both move mountains. And sometimes I have a mountain range worth of negativity. Keep me posted, sister, I can’t wait to see what you come up.

  7. Chronic pain is something that I’ve seen from close range, Sue. My Mom who is in her 70s’ is an active person and then about 2 years ago, her right ankle started to swell up which made walking difficult for her. She has arthritis in her other knee so this was supposed to be ‘the good’ leg, knee etc/

    We tried everything and nothing worked. Then a chance conversation with a friend revealed that he had suffered the same way for 2 years and the culprit was identified as his blood pressure medication.

    I took my Mom to another doctor who had treated me a few years earlier for asthma and his approach was completely different to the previous doctor who wanted costly tests done. It turned out that her thyroid medication had to be adjusted and a new blood pressure medication was given.

    The happy ending is Mom’s fine now and is presently looking after me as I tackle a health issue – the way only a Mommy can.

    • Hi Vatsala,

      I’m glad to hear your story and to read that your mom’s conditioning up resolved, or maybe I should say understood. Understanding is not yet present for me as to why is hypertension started in the first place. Tests are still happening, and I really relish and rely on the kind support of the people in my family and my support circle.

      I don’t have a living mommy anymore, but luckily enough, I have some amazing women in my life who are willing to step up and mother me when I needed. Much love to you.

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