AS I See IT
By Ruth Sanford
Since last week I have been searching for the meaning, for me, of "unfriendly pain" At that time I had written, "It (friendly pain) is friendly because it is an urge toward health."
I took only the slightest glance at its counterpart, "unfriendly pain," of which I wrote, "Unfriendly pain? I don't know. But at the moment I see it as destructive, consuming, futile. For that (a real look at it) I choose to wait for another time, knowing full well that it is there."
The more I have thought about it the more I know that much pain that exists in the world is. unfriendly Medical and psychological studies have established beyond doubt that unfriendly pain can aggravate a tendency lo cancer and ulcers, arthritis, heart ailments and strokes Cancer and ulcers are clearly malfunctions that consume the body in which they live, the unfriendliest of acts. Arthritis and strokes at their worst immobilize the body as can heart ailments. Destructive, all.
The pain, the unfriendly pain, which is the villain, I have come to believe, is self-imposed pain, the more insidious and damaging because the victim is most often unaware of its presence or its reason for being until it is too late.
I have an intimate acquaintance with this kind of pain -its face, its cruelty, its destructiveness. Twelve years ago I almost died from acute diverticulitis, triggered I am quite sure, by a hodge-podge mixture of love and tenderness, anger, and guilt because I felt the anger and couldn't control it, resentment for having to carry responsibility beyond my strength or willingness to carry. It had to do with the whole family but mainly my mother whom I loved deeply and who lived with us. All of these feelings tumbling over one another inside me, locked in daily combat, literally tore me apart. Or perhaps a more appropriate term would be ate me up inside. Truly an unfriendly pain!
I survived the intestinal surgery and have maintained myself in good health, for the |most part, since - but only because I found that I could change the unfriendly pain to
a friend, that I had within me the power to do that. It meant that I had to recognize the' causes, the conflict: to take responsibility for myself rather than trying to carry everyone else's responsibility; and to begin using my energies to uncap the flow of tenderness and genuine caring for myself and those about me which had been capped off by anger and guilt and resentment WHICH I HAD NOT OWNED AS MY OWN. Unfortunately there was too little time before my mother died to realize the flow but our last weeks were far better for us than they might have been. And the flow continues.
It became a friendly pain because I permitted it to lead me to a healthful and helpful, realignment.
As for my body politic, I ant finding my way through at bombardment of tangled ills of the world which pound upon' me and explode around me every time I read a newspaper or watch TV or open my mail.
The agony of Vietnamese boat people pushed out to sea to drown, the outrage of the slaughter of 25,000 young male seals on their way to their tiny mating grounds by U.S. government employees for their pelts to enhance the vanity of rich women, the repeated appeals of the Ship of Hope, organizations for the blind, the Epilepsy Foundation, the Cancer Society, Gun Control Legislation, Friends of Animals, Environmental Defense Fund, the Sierra Club, the Fund for Migratory Workers, Nassau County, the energy crisis, oil spills, the proliferation of nuclear and
other waste, wars and uprisings, the treatment of homosexuals and of persons over 60 as throwaway persons. In our own neighborhood is the fight to Save Our Watersheds, the Marine Environmental --Long Island, and our own struggle to bring new life and identity to our communities, the drive to "restore Jones Beach." I can cut them all off and deaden my human feelings. I can try to carry them all on -my shoulders and eat myself up with unproductive concern and anger and guilt and hopelessness; I can wring my hands and moan because "they" aren't doing something to set it right. I choose those issues which I can do something positive within my limitations, and commit myself to do what I can, to take the one chance in a thousand or ten thousand or a million that what I can contribute will make a difference, large or small, in this world. This I choose to do.
I will offer my compassion and my energy to do battle with and for the "throw-away" persons whom I know and care about. I choose to give my talents such as they are and a piece of my time to the building of a sense of community where I live. I shall write as consistently as my time permits to my elected representatives to let them know my convictions, my concern and encouragement so that they can represent me in their places of political power. I will continue to give of myself via money which I have earned to the causes of greatest concern to me beyond my own range of energy and ability. I will direct my professional life to encouraging and opening up opportunities for others to find their own priorities in this larger world community
I will continue to take responsibility for myself in using energy more responsibly, recognizing unproductive self-indulgence - cutting back on waste of water, electricity, paper products, and food in my own household and use of pesticides, preservatives and plastics, walking more and riding less. I will actively investigate the values of installing solar energy units.
There is much, much more. This is a beginning of discovering, for me, the uses of friendly pain in my family, my community, my levels of representative government, my profession, my world.
That is as I see it.