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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11 Responses to When the Absence of Pain Feels Like a Presence

  1. Michaela says:

    I just wanted to say how exciting it was to read how you’ve worked wonders with your reiki. There’s something so wonderful about the idea of you healing your partner. Clearly there was a whole lot of love being channeled into Alan’s eyes. Sheer gorgeousness! xx

  2. Barb says:

    Thanks Michaela. Yes, indeed, Reiki is pretty much love in action…

  3. I love this post and relate to it. I still wake up frequently at 4am, the hour my father died 6 months ago. And then my mind starts racing… Your closing advice is perfection: “Breathe. Hold the space open. Be kind to yourself.”

    Wondering and hoping if you might link this up to my BRAND NEW LINK PARTY all about gratitude and appreciation. This would be perfect and/or other posts from your site. Please?!?! Thanks! 🙂
    Meredith From A Mother Seeking Come find me on my blog, A Mother Seeking…

    • Barb says:

      So sorry to hear about your father, Meredith. My Dad died eight years ago and I so well remember the long, sleepless nights.

      I would love to join your link party, but I’m going to need to install updates on my blog first – I can’t get back in and edit anything at this point…

      We’ll keep in touch!

  4. sylvia says:

    Me too with that 3 Am stuff.
    Here is a story about that in my life.
    My brother was killed in a really bad boating accident 17 years ago and died in the middle of the night. Since then, I have woke up most nights. In the early years, I fought it. I drank it. I drugged it.
    Then, one day in Sunday School, a man I had no respect for and came awfully close to loathing for what he had done to others in my church, spoke of his middle of the night wrestling.
    He said, “claim it as a blessing. And then start listing all of you other blessings.”
    And so I do. And when I wake up at 3, mourning my brother or worrying about my children, or obsessing about the million other things that can and do go wrong in my life, I claim them as a blessing. Then start listing others. And I fall back to sleep.
    I wish I could say the wakeful nights are a thing of the past. They are not. But what is a thing of the past is the torment. And for that I give thanks to the man in my Sunday School class and ask for blessings for him.

  5. Macy says:

    Hi Barb! Well yay you right enough for some sensible words about loss and finding new pain to fill the void left by the old stuff.
    And yay or a day that starts with a dog walk!

  6. In modern business it’s not the crook who is to be feared most, it is the honest man who doesn’t understand what he could be doing.
    The individual isn’t a moron; she actually is your lady.

  7. I love that art journal layout!

  8. Mogenpianist says:

    Beautiful post. Thank you.

  9. P.J. Monroe says:

    This is a post I can relate to. Just recently, my doctor and I finally came into a combination of meds that has put my Bipolar Disorder in remission, someplace I haven’t been for 13 years. I am now shockingly aware of my sanity and I don’t quite know what to do with it. Responses that were normal to me before are obviously insane and inappropiate now, but what I know to be the correct responses (and now actually feel are the correct responses) are bland and stale. I really don’t know how you people live like this.
    There’s this space where the crazy was. Now there’s a little hole in my identity, myself. But before there were worms in my soul and rats in my bed, so I guess it’s a pretty good trade.

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