However, fortunately it's a double-edge sword. I think perhaps because I know what it is to struggle deeply, my heart has also gained an attenuated sense of joy and my eyes have often been opened to the great natural beauty in the world all around me. I discovered a long time ago that if I wanted my experience on this earth to be more than just the pain and darkness that can come easily to me, I needed to allow my spirit to open receptively to the goodness of this world, to allow my soul to flourish despite the pain.
However it is not always easy.
A few weeks ago I had a terrible night. My body was terribly pain-wracked as I huddled in the darkness.
Yearning for comfort, my mind brought forward a story I'd read just that day written by a woman who described being visited by angels at various difficult points in her life. I'm usually pretty skeptical of such stories, but I respect this person, and if she says it happened, I believe her.
Why couldn't that happen for me?
In the darkness I began to pray, begging God for relief. To not be alone in my pain.
Giving up on thoughts of angels, I began to distract my mind. Distraction sometimes helps reduce my pain, helps me to refocus.
I began envisioning in my mind my 100 year old Granda Horne's former house, where she lived for 50 years before dementia ravaged her mind (but never ever has stolen her spirit or spunk or sparkle). That home was such a safe, wonderful place for me to visit all through my childhood. Inch by inch, I mentally walked up her sidewalk, opened her door, and began going room by room through her home.
My mind began to fill with happy memories, every one pushing away my focus on my body's pain and filling my spirit instead with the deepest of comfort. There were memories of her hugs and love and homemade chocolate chip cookies, and the yellow curtains with green and blue flowers that billowed next to her mint green walls. There was her old fashioned kitchen table, her ever-present knitting projects, and the funny little tv set across from her gaudy brown couch.
There was the softness of her strong arms around me and the heartiness of her laughter that chortled through the years, all the way to now when she is 100 years old and so very frail...but still laughs easily
And suddenly in that instant everything changed for me.
Lying in the darkness I realized... an angel I did not need. A sudden voice speaking comfort into the darkness.... I didn't need that either.
I didn't need that because all my life, day after day, God surrounded me with true "angels" in human form. People who have invested in my life and poured so much love into my spirit that on a difficult night great comfort was only a memory away.
God has blessed my life with my husband and child; two special grandmothers and grandfathers; my parents, other family members and friends. I love them all so deeply it hurts.
I'm sure I'm not alone: we all have had human angels in our lives, be it parents or teachers or friends of the stranger who smiled at us as we walk down the street. Love is what makes our world so special, so beautiful, such a joy to be part of. True beauty is found in the relationships we form with those around us.
I realized, during that dark night, that the pain and darkness barely mattered. I have been loved, and I love. If I can share the love I've been so generously given, then my life will have been worthwhile.
Comforted, I pulled the blankets tightly around me, closed my eyes, and fell into the deepest of sleep.