I have arthritis in my left foot. It’s pretty bad and 4 years ago I had two painful surgeries, spent 8 months in a recovery boot and lived through what I would describe as the worst year of my life. My surgeon more than once joked that I was very unlucky to have lost this particular life lottery. My laughter was nervous at best. My foot, and the rest of me for that matter, has not been the same since (a little for worse and a lot for better). I have several fused joints and things just don’t function as they would otherwise. The compensation in my stride has aggravated old knee injuries and created some new ones. The long and short of it is, I live daily with chronic pain and some limitation of movement. This has not been easy and it kept me from fully embracing life, particularly in the months after I was “healed” I found it extremely hard to do the simplest things. It was isolating, de-humanizing and terrifying at times. I was in those early days, without exaggeration, not interested in living if this was going to be my life.
But as happens in life, in a miraculous season of grace at the peak of my darkness, came unexpected healing that flooded the awfulness with the light of love. The juicy details of this time are a story for another day, but the short version is this: in the most unlikely of ways, at the very time I imagined it could never happen (I mean seriously, I was practically a hermit) a person, THE person, MY person came into my life and needed me as much as I needed him. As our relationship has grown so too has my light. I don’t mean to suggest that the only way to heal from hardship and heartache is love…but…wait. As a matter of fact, I think I do mean to suggest this. I think I mean to shout from the rooftop that love IS the cure. Not just the romantic kind, but all kinds. Love. Luv. Luuurrve. Love. Love. Love is what heals our souls and nothing else. Love is the answer to all the hard questions. And love comes as many shapes and flavors as there are stars in the sky. It is we who heal each other.
My light had turned to dark daggers pointing inward with very little love getting through and very little love getting out. And when that changed, when I reached out in love to this human and he reached back everything changed for both of us. We’ve been growing together ever since. My love for people is thriving today in a way I would not have been able to imagine a few years ago.
I share all this because several days ago, I started to experience some new sharp pain on the top of my left foot just under my biggest scar and it is growing in frequency and intensity. I tried my usual tactics of distraction and avoidance, but excruciating pain will not be ignored. In a shockingly short time, ALL the feelings, memories, fears, wounds and ugliness from that time flooded me and I was drowning in it for a couple of days. I started to become lost in despair. How can I go through that again? Why me? Why now? Why is this happening? I can’t face it again.
And then the light. And then the love. All the things I have come to stand for, to say, to believe have risen back up in me like the sun and will not allow me to be given over to despair.
Not pain, not anticipation will take me there again. It will, no doubt. require a daily choice: light or dark – but I am committed, and I have tools to make it. Reminders everywhere in this life I’ve built. In the work I do, in the voice I have chosen. The voices I listen to, the things I’ve learned.
This is personal stuff, but it is the most human stuff – the pain and the fear. I want to share it because I know something deeply, that I didn’t fully know even a week ago. And that is this:
Love wins. Pain will always come, we will want to be afraid, but light will overcome the darkness if we let it.
Somehow this lesson of mine wanted to join to the voices that believe and know pain does not have to stop joy. Suffering does not block light, our response does. We have a choice. As we hurt for each other and ourselves, we choose love or we don’t. And for those who make the right choice, the world is a little better because you are in it. Love and light move us from a kind of selfishness to a place where we act on behalf of others even in the smallest ways. Whatever we can do, love compels us forward when we do it. Two words that I hope never lose their power, “Love Does” (thank you Bob Goff). We will be broken, but we will shine. We can be good for each other through and because of our pain. We rise. We rise. We rise.
Next steps for me? I figure out what this is. While I’m doing that, I will do all the things I can do with a good foot or a bad one. I’ll work, plan big things, be kind and love people. I’ll choose joy and light.