Our only comfort in life is that we may belong to another. If we are our own, our demise is a welcome thing. Finally, the trouble is ended. The pain will stop. But if we are not our own, our problems lie in the hands of someone else. We have an end to which we are headed. There is a solution to all our problems. There is one who cares even when we struggle to anymore. There is one who makes it all matter, who gives it all deep meaning.
My back hurts almost all the time now. It starts when I wake up. I turn on my left side to stop the alarm from waking my wife and notice the slight twinge of discomfort. If I am not careful, laying there on my pillow with my head tilted the wrong way will prepare me for a day of nagging ache.
I suppose this is part of what it means to grow old. Pain comes more quickly—if it ever really leaves. Like the birds of morning and the crickets of night, the noise of pain exists in an ever-present state, sitting in the background of everything else going on. The difference, of course, is no one considers the pain beautiful. No one stops to listen to the pain. What’s the point? It only makes it stronger.
When I finally put that first foot on the floor and rouse myself from the warmth and comfort of the bed, the pain moves to my heels. When I sit down with my coffee to read in my leather chair, the back pain returns. It is dulled only by the thoughts racing through my brain of the upcoming day. The meetings, the problems, the conversations, the projects, all of it sitting on my shoulders. I am Atlas without the strength to bear it.
However, even a bad day for me is a better day by far than most in the world both now and before. I am, after all, starting my day in a warm bed and with hot coffee. I drive a nice car to a well-paying job with enough challenges for a lifetime. I am surrounded by people who require only my attention and effort. I go home to a big family with a good dinner. Seven months out of twelve, Major League Baseball is in season. It is not a bad life. Not by a long shot.
But the pain is still there. Life is good, but it is not easy.
The right attitude would help, I’m sure. Gratitude would make a world of difference, I know. I get there sometimes. I force myself into it. But it doesn’t remove the ache. It doesn’t solve the problems. Seeing the good side doesn’t make the bad side less real. It doesn’t shine it up enough to camouflage it from the rest of life.