When you live with chronic pain your life can very easily become consumed by the pain. It dictates what you can and cannot do - and no matter how much you might fight it - the battle is constant. To those around you, you can seem like a normal, mundane, average woman. But inside, you're burning with a desire to just scream - but you never do - you never, ever do.
I feel like pain has stolen so much from me. It's stolen my ability to just be normal, to have normal things, to live a normal life. I see people my age with jobs, and partners, and children - they can run, and hike, and adventure - they can go out without repercussions.
And here I am just wishing I could do my housework regularly. But as the great Aslan once said:
“Child,' said the Lion, 'I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own.”
― The Horse and His Boy
We don't know anyone's story by looking at them. Therefore, I cannot tell the troubles others around me go through, just as they do not know mine.
And it's okay. We're all individuals with our own stories. I'm allowed to grieve for the things I have lost to pain. I'm just trying to figure out how to live with what I have.
My Dad once told me, and continues to tell me to this day.
"If you're in pain, you may as well be doing what you love while in pain." I have tried to follow this wisdom - fundamentally it crafts a lot of my narrative - it's just very, very hard. Pain completely saps the life right out of you.
It hammers you down to the basics.
And that is where this story begins.
The basics. Joy.
When you live with chronic pain it's really important to have a few things in your life that bring joy. I cannot stress this enough. Find what brings you joy. Not happiness. Joy. Happiness is a want. A desire. An intense, unbearable, questing want. Happiness is a flickering moment of eating cake. Joy - joy is a bloom that fills you to the brim and swells out, it makes you realise you are so, so glad to be alive despite the blades of hot iron piecing your skin.
Find what brings you Joy.
One of the things that bring me joy is my fireplace. I absolutely love the ambiance it creates, the warmth it brings, and the comfort from it. It makes a lonely house not so lonely. I really, really wish I had a fireplace in my bedroom as well. It would just - it'd make the house so perfect! The joy does not just come from the fire itself though, it also comes from the preparation. Through Summer I collect sticks, and wood, and get such delight filling my shed in preparation for the Winter months. (Thanks much to the help of my Dad) There is a deep sense of satisfaction knowing the work I do in Summer will pay off in Winter.
For the past two years I haven't been able to chop my own wood. I've had to wait for my Dad to come around and chop it for me. I've watched in awe as he swings the axe down, whack, wham, and splits the wood. I deeply admired my Dad's ability to chop the wood, and was unbearably frustrated at having no Man around the house to help me when Dad was busy. So I kept attempting it, and I found myself backing away in fear. The axe was so heavy. Lifting it over my head, smashing it down and releasing the full force of my swing at the right moment was terrifying. It was dangerous being BAD at it, so I stopped trying. Being that I am the living embodiment of the "clumsy girl" stereotype - I thought it best to err on the side of caution.
I don't know what changed this year. I don't know what confidence in myself altered enough for me to pick up the axe again and swing it without fear. A similar attitude I've been trying to take with my anxiety over driving, perhaps - just do it.
I thought there was no way - no way in the world - that I was going to be able to chop my own wood. I am so weak. Guys. I am SO WEAK. This axe was heavy. I was SO heavy. I tried lifting a chainsaw at Bunnings and remarked to my Dad that it was heavy and he looked at me in concern. "It's not heavy, Kylie."
My stomach just sunk, I almost burst into tears.
Pain had made me weak. I didn't want to be weak. I wanted to be strong enough to swing an axe.
So I did.
I swung that axe like I meant it - without fear.
It was so hard. It took a lot of effort that first day, and the second day, and the third day, and the fourth, just to chop my small pile of wood for the fire.
But the joy it brought me was indescribable. During what has been one of the worst flare ups of my pain that I've had in months, I clutched at the joy of chopping wood. When I was beside myself with pain, I threw on my raincoat, trudged out in the pouring rain, and chopped wood for the fire.
If you have never - ever - chopped wood in the rain, I highly recommend it. There is something so incredibly real, and alive, and joyful about it. I wish--I wish I lived in the snow, so I could chop wood in the snow.
It has been about four weeks now, since I started my wood chopping. I haven't developed rippling muscles of awesomeness - though I feel like I should have - something else has happened. That axe on the left is no longer heavy. Infact, it's become very light. Chopping wood has become easier.
Until I reached the harder pieces I had been "avoiding" in the woodpile.
So that is when I decided to attempt using the Wood Splitter. Now I once though the axe was heavy - which meant the Wood Splitter was practically an impossibility to throw over my head and swing down. But after using the axe for several weeks, almost every day, the Wood Splitter - while heavy - was no longer duanting.
So I swung it, released it with perfect timing, and split the impossible logs.
When I picked up my old axe, it was like picking up a feather. It barely weighed anything in my hand. I lifted, swung, released, and the axe glided through the wood.
All the pain, all the tears, all the shame I feel, all the sorrow of a life I wish I could have lived -- I look at my woodpile -- that I've chopped myself -- and I feel joy.
At least I can do this.
Just this little thing.
This one thing.
Brings me joy amongst the pain.