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The Path of Pain

As a new school semester begins, I find myself reflecting on my college years. I chose to attend Quincy College, which was hours from my home in Chicago. This new landscape presented endless opportunities and the ability to reinvent myself. But there was some baggage that I did not pack but still that followed me to college–my chronic pain. I had wished it would stay behind. But in this new place I consciously realized that no one had to know whether I packed the chronic pain with me or not. I was free to deny its existence and pretend to be pain free. Who would it hurt?

I paid a stiff price for my silence. I mindlessly volunteered for events like, “Walk to End Hunger” that inflicted excruciating pain. I will never forget peeling off my shoes from my blood-blistered feet. I never envisioned anything beneficial coming from the experience.

But as the current students return to my alma mater and walk into Brenner Library, they will be greeted by a featured book. My dear roommate, Nancy Knoche Crow, arranged a display with the book I just authored, Silent Courage. The hunger walk is one of the stories that I share in the book reflecting on suffering because I refused to own my pain. Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 11.47.36 AM

Nancy and I and our husbands got together recently to catch up on the paths our lives have taken since our years at Quincy:

The college is now a University.

Nancy is now their Associate Librarian.

My book is now part of the Library collection.

And I am offering workshops to teach others the healing benefits of connecting with a personal story.

Breaking my silence has made all the difference for me. It is scary to consider what I would be missing and the gifts I would have denied myself if I had continued to deny my pain. I challenge you to name and claim what you fear because denying that part closes you off from the wisdom it may have to offer.

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Communicating vs. Complaining

I was asked to speak at a local retirement complex last week regarding Pain Management and issues related to my new book, Silent Courage. One of the topics that encouraged our group discussion was the need to express our needs. One of the participants asked, “But isn’t that complaining?”

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I said no. “It’s a good thing to communicate.”

Then she asked, “Why do we feel it is a bad thing?”

What a great question.

It seems that we confuse complaining with communicating. And the only difference between the two may be our attitude. Communicating is relaying information. Complaining implies that we moan or groan as we speak.

When we communicate that we have particular needs we are asking the world to stop, look, and listen. Then simply say, “What may work for you does not work for me. I need [state what you need].”

By sharing that we require something like a handicapped parking spot because walking long distances is difficult we are raising awareness that distance matters. If we travel through this world only thinking of ourselves, it is easy to remain selfish. If folks who were in wheelchairs, who could not climb stairs, never expressed their challenges, we may not have elevators that benefit us all in buildings today.

It is our attitude when we express our feelings that categorizes what we say.

My husband’s roommate in college was blind. When you would enter his space I remember asking him if it was okay if I turned a light on. His reply was, “Sure, I forgot you have that problem.”

Never be afraid to claim the space you  need for your journey. Others may benefit, too.