So my friend Jimmie posts a picture every Friday, we’ve talked about that. This week’s picture was a snow covered road in some empty fields. What struck me about the picture wasn’t the snowy mist in the background, but the complete lack of anything modern, like power lines. I thought about the change that bringing something so ubiquitous to us would have meant to a small farm out in the middle of nowhere.
Now stick with me for a moment. If you know me well, you know I have a family member with whom I have a… contentious… relationship. Immediately, my thoughts went to that person and the fact that they can remember when the family farm got electricity.
These aren’t pleasant memories. This person is the “I walked two miles to a one-room schoolhouse every day, in the deep snow, and it was uphill both ways!” kind of person. That emotion was the last thing I wanted to bring into my story. I decided to take this week off and work on something I could sell. Then I went downstairs, made a drink, ate left-over pizza and didn’t get up off the couch for the rest of the night. In other words, rather than deal with the painful feelings this person brings into my life, I sacrificed several important things:
#1. A chance to tell a story about a beautiful picture.
#2. A chance to stare down the pain this person brings into my life and beat it.
#3. A chance to be creative.
#4. A chance to honor my friend Jimmie’s sacrifice of time and effort to help others around him.
Of these, I think the chance to stare down pain is the most important. I’m nursing a broken bone right now. It aches. If I move wrong it stabs. But I’m used to it so I endure it, and I know that it will eventually fade. Not so with emotional pain. Unless it’s dealt with, emotional pain doesn’t just linger, it ulcerates into anger, depression, and bitterness. And like a physical infection, it must be aggressively treated before it has the chance to fester.
Of course, that’s easier said than done.
I can’t tell you how to deal with emotional pain; I’m not always entirely successful with it. But I can tell you how I dealt with this particular emotional pain. And maybe from that we can all learn something.
Rather than focus on the one family member, I shifted slightly and thought of another family member. My grandmother was the most amazing person in the world and I worshipped the ground she walked on. My grandparents owned a dairy farm with no electrify or indoor plumbing during the depression. She would bake a Schaum Torte in a wood burning oven so the farm hands had at least one good meal that day, dessert included. She didn’t have the money for it, she didn’t have the time for it. She did have the love for it. I thought of her, and my pain and anger faded away in the presence of goodness and sacrifice.
As I said, I can’t tell you how to deal with your pain, and I certainly don’t want to suggest that deep pain can be healed with someone else’s memories. But I can tell you that focusing on my emotional pain last night did me no good. Maybe next time I’m threatened with that same pain, I can move a little quicker and not waste an entire evening on pizza and a move I’ve seen ten times. As the proverb says, “Guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.“
I hope you are navigating these most difficult of times with faith, love, and good literature.