On Pain and Perspective

So far today, I have not been overcome by fatigue. Nor have I struggled against pain and discomfort. It’s not quite noon yet, and I’ve been up since eight. So this has been a good morning. I’ve even had enough brain power to try to write a little. I can tell when my brain power is low, however; I won’t be writing anything brilliant. But I might remember a few thoughts and jot them down, or fill in some details where I’ve just got sketchy notes.

I’ve had few good mornings in the past couple of weeks. Discomfort from abdominal distension and low energy from anemia have got me down much of the time. I am struck by how radically these conditions shift my perspective on the world.

When I am well, I wake up cheerful. Before I even open my eyes, my outlook on the world and the day is positive. I expect good things. And generally, my days are filled with good things, like love. I am able to appreciate any incidental beauty the day brings to my window. I warmly accept affection. When things don’t go my way, I can often still be gracious. I get excited about new ideas. I want to do things.

When I am unwell, all this is reversed, and I am miserable. I feel sour, like the dried up, moldy lemon I’m sure I would find if I opened the fruit and vegetable drawer. It’s hard even to smile—I can feel my yellowing face pinched in a horrible, self-pitying grimace when I try. Yuck. It’s really hard to like myself like this. When things get really bad, the whole world, with me in it, is ugly.

I don’t know how people who suffer with chronic pain or fatigue, whether physical or emotional, manage. Sometimes I think all the people we pass in the streets who don’t smile are probably unhappy and stressed or unwell and suffering. There is an awful lot of pain in our world. Those of us who are blessed enough to not be suffering, it seems to me, could take on a greater burden to relieve those who are in pain or exhausted or depressed. We can see this happen sometimes when a stranger offers to hold a door or help carry a stroller up a flight of stairs. Everyone smiles.

I was extremely blessed in my life to live with so much wellness and vitality until recently. It made happiness so much easier. I realize now I could have done much more to share that gift with others. So many never know the joy of a healthy body and a light spirit. Perhaps we could all think more about how to balance this vast inequity, especially as the well person who gives is rarely made weaker or less well for the gift. It can be something grand, like a big donation for the holidays. Or it can be a small, personal gesture. Or both. But I’m pretty sure everyone will benefit.

About susanbriscoe

English teacher, writer
This entry was posted in On Dying and Living and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

36 Responses to On Pain and Perspective

  1. quendylynne says:

    You are so right. I’ve been amazed at how suffering begats gratefullness and kindness, but it often does.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Marilyn CLULOW says:

    I thought I would like to share this with you. They are a series of posts written by a beautiful woman, a friend of Melanie’s in Montreal. I only met her the once.She is just 50 and is dying of an incurable cancer and these are her thoughts. She has already lived longer than expected and I think she has lived so she could share her thoughts with her friends and family. Her writings are so beautiful .

    When you get to the end of this post , click on See all Comments and on the next page on the top left is a link to all her previous posts. You must read them in sequence. They will touch you deeply.

    Let me know what you think, Marilyn

    Sent from my iPad


    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is so beautiful and candid. It’s harsh realities but how we can still be better. Thank you. This made my day. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. leeawrites says:

    I wish you good days.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Create Space says:

    Holding you in my thoughts Susan. Thanks for sharing and helping me to value the important things. I follow Lily at True North Nomad, you might like to check out her journey.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dan Bohn says:

    You have a beautiful soul Susan. Your post is wonderful.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Cate says:

    A lovely reflection. The holidays often come with a sense of obligation or additional burden, especially for people who are already under emotional or physical stress. It’d be nice if we could remove the “good cheer” expectations and allow people to be where they are when they are. That’s a gift in itself. I’m glad you were having a good day when you wrote this, and wish for you many more.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Barbara Joannides says:

    Thank you for sharing this Susan. We all need reminding. I wish you many more days of peace and clarity. Much love.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Dorothea says:

    Gary and I are here with you, caring and appreciating your words. They are of immeasurable use to others in parallel situations , and will be long valued. Sending love.

    Liked by 1 person

    • susanbriscoe says:

      Thank you, Dorothea! I have been meeting to sit down for over a month now and write a nice long note to you. Your words and memories have been so much appreciated! I wish you and yours a beautiful, musical holiday!


  10. janfalls says:

    dear Susan, I am deeply touched by your words. This time last year, I was seriously ill for the first time in my life; it lasted for several months. I experienced just what you describe and I, too, developed a new perspective on suffering. Since then I try to live each day with gratitude for the relative good health I have and to support those who have less of it. Once again, you inspire me with your wisdom as you share your gifts. I am grateful to you and will think of you whenever I pay it forward. with love, Janice

    Liked by 2 people

  11. ssktkg says:

    I badly wish that my mom could give her cancer to me and she lives long!


  12. curioussteph says:

    Beautifully expressed, Susan. A great reminder. I experienced this myself at a very minor level following a shoulder surgery. I would get so crabby and irritable at times, mysteriously so. I didn’t consciously register pain, but once I checked in on myself, I would realize that I was hurting. I can only imagine now how it is for you. It is amazing how our sense of wellbeing affects our ability and willingness to be present. Brilliant observations. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Ilene says:

    New to reading your blog, and I relate in every way to your post – sometimes remembering days of better health eclipses my attempts at the practice of mindful activities. I resent it, you know? It does work, though this “being in the moment” thing…even when it too exhausted me. I love writing, awareness of cognitive malfunctioning surfaces while creating sentences from words. But one cannot 🛑 trying. Nice to meet you via the blogosphere. I’m getting around the larger room in cyberspace locating other metsers and saying hi. So, hi and a follow and an invite when you’re up to join my convo, too.
    In peace, strength, and love,

    Liked by 1 person

    • susanbriscoe says:

      Nice to meet you here, Ilene! Sorry to hear about your health challenges; I sure get that resentment. And the awareness of cognitive malfunctioning when trying to write! I hope the holidays are a good time for you.
      Love and courage to you!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ilene says:

        Yeah tell me about the cognitive dissonance challenge and I’ll tell you I don’t talk to very many people about it, since I can be the one who “forgot,” instead of my husband for instance. He’s already using it to defend some of the nasty crap that pops out of his mouth to try cover his faux pas.

        On the positive side of things writing exercises other parts of my brain and lights up new neural pathways to help get around that disturbing side effect. This and singing made up songs to my little furry Cat-son, Simon. He adores it, and sometimes joins into the chorus. Kidding aside, it’s a great way to stretch the mind to think clearly and get my words to come out without the pantomime or 109 words to describe a thing’s word I may not use very often. Like catalytic converter. Thank you for commenting and for writing, too. I’m grateful for both,
        Happy holiday and I hope your new year brings with it joy & peace…and all of us closer to a cure,


  14. Dan Bohn says:

    I was looking for a direct email address to send you something personal. I do not Facebook, I found FB to much of time drain. My ask is of Susan or Roy to send email to cubedan@yahoo.com so i will have email contact for you. Thanks. Dan Bohn


  15. Ive just found your page this evening & you have touched my heart with you’re lovely posts and so happy that you’re spreading across such lovely messages to everyone, you are honestly so sweet lovely

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Susan Toth says:

    Dear Susan,
    I have been truly touched by your writings on your blog. I’ve been’lucky’ to survive with metastatic breast cancer for the last 13+ years. My health has turned more grave recently and your strength in the face of death has truly encouraged me to face my own fears of dying. I’m nowhere near as brave as you seem to me, but I’ve taken baby steps and I thank you for that. The decision to stop treatments is something I fully understand and know I will have to resort to eventually.
    Thank you, thank you, for your words of wisdom and your incredible strength.
    Susan Toth


  17. susanbriscoe says:

    Surviving with metastatic breast cancer for over thirteen years sounds pretty brave to me! The decision to stop treatment is so difficult and personal. I hope you will receive the clarity and courage for that decision as a gift. I send an abundance of strength and peace and love through all this. xo


  18. Gavin Whyte says:

    Thank you for sharing 🙂 I run a How to Stay Calm class for The School of Life, and in the material there’s a quote from a psychologist (sorry, unfortunately I forget his name), but he’s quoted saying, rather guilelessly, “So many of us are depressed because life can be so depressing for many of us.” Although I’m aware of the benefits of having a positive outlook, it’s nice to be reminded that being happy all the time is incredibly unrealistic, and we should never beat ourselves (and others) up for being unable to find a smile. Many blessings 🙂


  19. Lee McCullough says:

    Hi Susan your words are so perfect in their honesty. I see your beautiful smile and vermin’s eyes as I read your words. Holding you in my heart and prayers. Lee


  20. jugglejack says:

    we should realize that we have been blessed so much
    many people still grunning about their life while they have been blessed so much in life

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Henry Lewis says:

    What a great post! You words just encapsulated what i believe to be our duty as human beings. Unfortunately, i don’t always live up to my own standards. Thanks for the reminder.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. You’ve been nominated for a blogging award,my dear:


    Liked by 1 person

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