How Do You Deal with the Pain?

My friend and I have been discussing the subject of pain, both physical and emotional. In the midst of these conversations, we’ve found ourselves pondering the question, “How do you deal with the pain?”. There are many answers to that question, but here is one answer that I found as I thought back to a different season of life.

Scrapbook papers of every color and pattern lay scattered on the table before me, the leftover pieces have fallen to the floor but I haven’t noticed because I’m entirely focused on the task in front of me. I’ve got a plain wood frame from Michael’s, black sponge brushes, decoupage glue and tiny medical scissors that I’ve repurposed for the fine cuts I need to make my designs. Somewhere in our little house there are three kids, the youngest still a baby who is usually on my hip in a sling. And outside of our house, my Dad is decaying at Sunrise Gardens and I know it will soon be time to go and visit him. When I do go, I will see his matted hair, his confused grey-green eyes and I will have to face the reality that he no longer has the ability to read the book on Vince Dooley that I bought for him this week. How dare you spend the time making these frames in this hectic season of your life, I often scold. You’re being selfish, I tell myself when I drag my kids to yet another scrapbook store to get just the right papers for a custom frame order. The shaming starts up again when my husband comes home to a living room exploding with Playmobils and unfolded laundry and a cold stove that informs him that he’s on dinner tonight, again. But there are other times, long moments when those voices are silenced and I can hear a quieter voice that reminds me that my fingers are making order out of chaos. That voice reminds me that making order out of chaos is an important job. I am a God of order and I made you, the voice says. Somehow bringing order to these papers brings order to the chaos in my heart and for just a little while peace instead of pain fills my soul. Soon, yes, I will go back to this thing called parenting that brings me to the end of myself by 4pm every day. And I will again sit with my Dad and try hard not to recall memories of him before he spoke in conspiracy theories or talked to me like I’m his Jamaican wife (that he never had) or listen as the activities director tells me “Your-dad-ate-paint-today-but-don’t-worry-he’s-okay”. It’s almost as if I have no choice but to return again to my small job of cutting and arranging these bits of paper and color. The act of creating has become an act of survival.

Over the last decade, the tools have changed from glue and scissors to a camera to a paint brush and sometimes to the very tool that I’m using to write this post. Discovering that the act of making something can quiet and even delight a soul in the midst of persistent pain is a gift from the Lord that continues to bless me. It’s a truth that we need to give ourselves permission to access, even when it seems like there is no space or time for it.

“But there are other times, long moments when those voices are silenced and I can hear a quieter voice that reminds me that my fingers are making order out of chaos.”