When the Absence of Pain Feels Like a Presence

A little over a year ago, I had my gallbladder out, with happy assurances that the pain that had been interrupting my sleep and my dinners would disappear. But it didn’t. And every night, I would wake up at 4:00 AM in pain.

But I’m a Reiki practitioner, right? I should be able to fix this! I mean, if I can cure my husband’s glaucoma, surely I can take care of a simple belly pain? So last Tuesday, after high-fiving all the way home from the eye clinic (seriously, the pressure in his eye went from 26 down to 18 using nothing but Reiki and how incredibly cool is that????) I thought, dammit, it’s time. I managed to find the right kind of magic and my belly pain disappeared. Yay me, right?

Well, sort of. No more pain. And I was still waking up at 4:00 AM, just as I had been doing for the past two years or so.
At first I thought it was the pain waking me up. But I took a deep breath and, no, it wasn’t there. So I just breathed into whatever it was that was waking me up and eventually relaxed and fell back to sleep.

And I think this experience is common to most people who lose a source of pain. It goes away and leaves behind a space and we don’t really know what to make of that space. So we rush to fill it.

I think this is why a recovering addict has a relapse. Why someone who finally leaves a bad marriage enters into another one. Or, heaven help me, leaves a crap job only to sign up for another (It took awhile, but I think I’ve left that one behind).
Awareness is huge. Knowing that you will feel the absence of pain as a space. Not calling that space emptiness, or worse, a hole. Holding it open, just breathing into it and allowing yourself the time you need to see what it develops into. Being kind to yourself if you have filled it with more pain. It is, after all what we’re used to. It can feel so right.

We set our clocks back on the weekend. And since my body can’t tell the difference between one hour and two, I’ve started waking up at 6:00, which is really close to snuggle time. And eventually the dog wants in and then he’ll need to be taken out for the first walk of the day and any day that starts with the phrase, “Ruffles, walkies?” is pretty much guaranteed to be a good day.

Breathe. Hold the space open. Be kind to yourself.

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