I wasn’t looking for a Guest Post particularly suited for the New Year. And yet the post I found was exactly addressed to the New Year theme. This is the first Wednesday of 2010, the year’s first opportunity for a Guest Post. And the first blog I clicked on featured the post “Purpose in Pain” whose forward-looking theme seemed an ideal meditation for all of us in the cancer community.
Carolyn Langlie-Lesnik RN BSN writes at her blog Appendix Cancer Survivor’s Blog. In this post Carolyn reflects on the theme of the transformative potential of the cancer experience, on how, in very subtle and unsuspecting ways, we become more attuned to the essential things in life. A very positive way to start the New Year.
Maybe I’m going out on a limb here, but I guess I spend a lot of time thinking and contemplating and reading. Maybe because I live in the cancer community, a place where pain and heartache and struggle reign. I think about it a lot.
After I had survived longer than I was expected to, I became obsessed with purpose. If I had survived against all odds, I felt I must be here for a reason, and I was obsessed with learning why I had survived, what my purpose was here. I thought if I’d survived when I wasn’t supposed to, it must be for a reason. I HAD to understand my life purpose, I had to justify my survival. I had to be worthy.
I read lots of books about purpose. One was “What Color is Your Parachute”, written Richard N. Bolles, a former Episcopal clergyman. What intrigued me most about the book was a single chapter, which was later published in a single small book “How to Find Your Mission in Life”. In that chapter and book, he contemplates that maybe before we were born, our eternal soul existed and gave permission for us to be on this earth and to deal with what we would suffer here, knowing that it was for a limited time only. What if we, from the other side, gave our permission to experience the events and pain we would suffer here, knowing it would serve an ultimate and greater purpose? Knowing that we had a mission and knowing that we would eventually come home to where things were right and just, where we would later be whole again.
That gave me a sort of peace. Maybe we are all interconnected and our trials in the end are for a greater good. One example…my daughter has a deaf cousin. She learned sign language to communicate with her. That same cousin had a very disabled brother who died at age 4 after suffering a life of disability..he was never able to communicate, eat, even breathe well. In the end she is pursuing a career in special education and works for a group home housing many disabled adults with severe autism. Her heart is for the handicapped. She has a gift for dealing with the severely disabled. She worked with the disabled at her high school, and taught sign language to some who were mute, giving them the first chance they’d ever had to communicate with others. Maybe dealing with two disabled cousins gave her the ability to profoundly affect the lives of many who are disabled. Maybe the disability of her two cousins will in the end help her help hundreds of disabled kids. So maybe from her cousin’s pain there was a greater good.
I read once of a very educated and intelligent man who gave up his career and spent years working with the very disabled. Though they could not communicate with him, he said they taught him more than he had ever learned before…about appreciating health and wholeness, about unconditional love.
A young adult I consider my “adopted son” was profoundly affected by the accidental death of his father at a young age…but he has become gifted from that experience in the way he is able to support and relate to others.
Maybe in the end all of our suffering is for a greater good. Maybe kids who lose parents to cancer will in the end be able to help others in a way no one else can. The child of one patient I know who had appendix cancer in the end as a teen formed her own non-profit to raise money for cancer research.
Maybe the effect of our pain on just one other person will cause that person to positively influence hundreds of other. Maybe our pain is interconnected in a way that achieves a greater goal, even if we can’t know it from our perspective here and now.
Maybe even small events in our lives cause a ripple effect that change the world. Maybe there is a bigger picture we don’t understand..yet. But maybe we will one day.