on good pains

I woke up this morning, as I do most mornings, wondering which bit of my body actually hurts the most.  I cannot remember a day when I have awoken without a pain somewhere and it is so much part of my life now I don’t actually view it as unusual.  Once out of bed and moving around the pain subsides and the day begins.

Reflecting on this while having breakfast I was drawn to a memory from childhood.  I was an active child and an active teenager, I swam a lot, I walked a lot and I rowed and canoed at least three times a week. Then, as now, I loved being outside, and thought nothing of running around constantly.  There was a time when I had been a little more energetic than usual and had visited a local church where the tower was open to the public. I climbed the hundreds of steps to the top without a thought, but that night at home my leg muscles were hurting me badly.  I told Mum, who was as ever sympathetic and when Dad came home he also got the sorry tale of my poorly legs.  Dad smiled and said, ‘that is great love, you have good pains’.

Now, I was completely confused, what on earth is a good pain?  As I was struggling to walk up to the bathroom I was not inclined to agree with Dad.  He qualified his opinion by explaining that muscles are meant to be used, and the pain I was feeling was as a result of a positive experience and as such was a good thing.  Dear Dad, he always had a slightly different view on the world, and at the time I was critical, I wanted sympathy not congratulations.

As the years have gone on, I have thought more about what Dad said, and come to realise that he was, as usual, right.  Pain can often be a good thing.  It is our bodies way of telling us something is different.  For my teenage self, the difference was in the type of activity I had done and the aches soon subsided. In later years pain has alerted me to illness and to problems within my body and my children’s bodies that otherwise would have made things very difficult if untreated.

Without toothache we would not know of infection in our gums, that potentially could harm us. Without a stomach pain my sister would never have known her appendix was about to burst.  There are dozens more examples I could give.  Pain is often a force for the good.

The pain without cause is a more difficult thing to live with and to understand.  When medic after medic finds no concrete reason to explain the daily struggles of living with pain, it is easy to be worn down by it all.  At these times I talk to my body and remind it that I am actually in control and I will use the tips and tricks learned over the years to cope.

So, oddly today my blog is celebrating pain, of all types, the pain that sends us a message to get medical help quickly, the pain that informs our lives and makes us think of different ways to live. Without my physical pain, I would have continued long in a job that I didn’t like and wasn’t good for me, it was my body that told me this long before my mind came to the same conclusion.  Without knowing the awful pain of heartache I would have no point of reference for the happiness I have today.  Without the muscle spasms of all those years ago, I wouldn’t have the memory of my dear Dad, cheering me on through the pain in my legs and introducing me to the concept of good pains.

Thanks Dad, once again your wisdom is informing my life.

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