The Mind is a Garden
“The mind is a garden that ought be carefully tended,” I said- every day I was in private practice, mostly to myself. I love a good metaphor, and this one works for me. Perhaps because my mind is full of weeds and the compost pile gets way out of control at times. I will also admit that I am not a natural optimist and find people telling me to think positively a bit of an irritant. I am definitely not trying to suggest that any of us deny our truth and put on a miss -happy -sunshine face if, indeed, we are in the middle of compost. I am suggesting that we cannot let our minds manage themselves and run amok wherever the weather takes them, because then we end up with something like this:
Yep, all grown over with weeds, dead flowers, and needing a machete to cut a path to health. And let’s face it- we all have areas of the garden that look like this or worse. We are all the same that way.
The question for myself and you, today, relates to physical pain. Pain, just like emotions, can be memories also. It used to be that whenever I saw someone on TV or in real life with a scar or injury to their left arm, the incisions where my tumor resection are would burn, like a molten zipper. Doing therapy on those original memories of the arm pain helped the zipper pain. I am still left with arm pain, but it is not the memory arm pain. Hopefully that makes sense. Maybe some of you have had babies, and when you talk about your birth story or hear someone else’s you remember your birth pain really well, but on an every day basis- you just live with some bladder and tummy issues?
I wish I could be more concise, but this is hard to explain- and I’m on alotta meds. There is always that.
Does Talking About Pain Help?
I was at the doctors the other day, and they brought out that #$%&ing pain scale, and I just shrugged. Then they asked me what the pain felt like. So, I told the resident- “It feels like my feet and legs have been dipped in kerosene and lit on fire, while my leg muscles pull away from the bone, and my sides feel like they have been rubbed with sandpaper and dipped in alcohol. My head needs an ice-pic, and my left arm could power this building with the electricity running through it.” Did I feel better saying that. NOOOO. I felt worse, and I feel worse typing it. The resident looked like she was going to cry. Meh. But distraction is such a big part of my pain management program, talking does not help me feel better- it just brings me into awareness of how much pain I’m in. Talking about my pain doesn’t really help my relationships either- other than a quick- “its a rough day.” Because no one can fix it, and my spouse feels worse when he feels helpless.
What works for me is letting that pain path grow over just a bit by not talking about it, and not always listening to the details of other’s physical pain. Of course I want to know when someone is in pain, but for me- talking and listening just bring me back to an awareness of my own pain, which is constant. I see my garden with at least two paths- a path where I can choose to chase my life, or a path of mindfulness and acceptance of right here right now.
Like most lessons I attempt, the main value is probably for me. What paths have become overgrown or need tuning up, who will join me in the compost bin, what needs to be planted this season? Seeds for thought.
On another note— I developed a new- (dys)functional pain scale that we use to communicate practical intel in our house. It might make you grin.