It’s 3pm on a Sunday afternoon, as I walk in the doors of a Bob Evans where I quickly greet my fellow group members who are already there for our monthly social get-together. My body is hurting pretty bad today and the last thing I feel capable of doing is being social with anyone. Yet I say hello and push on through with a few casual hugs and then immediately head to the bathroom for what seems like the millionth time to relieve myself. I stare at a cold wall in front of me once there and glance around to see if anyone else is around. Thankfully no one is so I cry out aloud and ask God to help me get through this. You see I do this often in places just like this, ones where I find myself alone, even though I feel pretty much alone everywhere I go these days.
When I emerge from the bathroom, the hostess asks us to follow her to our table. I promptly take my seat in the middle of it, but regret not sitting at the end where I could withdraw from conversation if I needed to. Oh well, I say in my head, as I proceed to look down at the menu. Trying to make a choice from one of its four pages seems next to impossible when a body is screaming in agony like mine is at the moment.
Should I get breakfast? Lunch? Dinner? Do I want a big meal or a small one? Maybe I should just eat nothing and starve myself out of self-pity. No, that’s ridiculous! I need to eat something as those two pieces of bacon and that banana I ate earlier were long gone from my stomach. I ultimately settle on the large grilled chicken salad, as maybe eating healthier might make me feel slightly better.
Suddenly, I hear at the table that our lead speaker for our meeting that night is a former sponsee who I abruptly parted ways with three years ago and not under the best circumstances. But instead of remaining silent about it, my pain overtakes me and I become negative with the words I start speaking.
That happens a lot when my pain levels get high, as trying to find words of positivity are often downright difficult when I hurt as bad as this. I begin breaking every one of my spiritual rules for the next ten minutes at the table, as I talk about this former sponsee, none of which comes out in any of Christ’s light. And by the end of it, I feel spiritually unclean and find my pain is hurting even more now. My words were more like gossip and I wasn’t 100% truthful in all that I said. My soul is sad now because of it and I decide its best I remain more silent than not from this point forward.
As I sit there and watch people smiling, chatting, and enjoying each other’s company, I begin to squirm in my chair, wishing I could just die right there in that moment, and be taken to some place like Heaven, or somewhere else that doesn’t involve living with this painful flesh and body I’m stuck in. Life doesn’t seem fair and I feel even worse now, because deep down I think about that former sponsee I just put down, as they too have a piece of God in them, like I do as well. I make a promise to myself that later at our meeting, I’m going to make an amends to all those who listened to my negative comments, especially the ones who had done their best to turn each of them around to something more positive, the very thing I normally would have done if I hadn’t felt so much pain within.
The food arrives as I silently ask God for forgiveness and it’s then I notice my large salad doesn’t appear to be very large at all. In fact, it’s about the same size as the one my friend got across from me, yet she had ordered the smaller version. Unfortunately, that’s another thing my pain often does to me. It makes me feel dissatisfied with the littlest of things, things that never seem to bother me one bit when their level is far more manageable.
“I can get you some more salad if you want…” the waitress says after hearing my not-so-quiet displeasure of the salad now sitting in front of me. I feel slightly guilty after letting her know I’ll take her up on her offer, because when she returns with another whole salad, free of charge shortly thereafter I still feel dissatisfied. Because none of this was about my salad in the first place. I’m just unhappy with my life’s circumstances and sadly, there’s nothing more I can do about it other than what I’m already doing in life. Believe me I’ve tried. And as I stare down at my now double portion of salad, I realize it doesn’t change a gosh darn thing.
I eat my salad in silence and occasionally put a smile on my face, chiming in a conversation here and there, just so no one asks me what’s wrong. That never does go over too well when they do. Because it always ends with me receiving unsolicited advice, mostly things I’ve already tried before, when all I really want is a reassuring touch or hug.
The next thirty minutes is filled with more trips to the bathroom, more squirming in my chair, and thoughts of me ordering a dessert hoping it might somehow bring me a little comfort and joy. Watching everyone else seem to have that a lot more than I, is probably the most challenging thing I face in life these days. I don’t have much fun in life anymore and I silently wonder if any of these people around me truly understand how I feel.
I ultimately decide to skip my comfort-seeking dessert, because I had just tried that the prior two nights unsuccessfully. As I stare down in defeat at the placemat before me, I see there’s a contest to win free dinner for a year at Bob Evans and smile sarcastically to the realization that even if I won that, it wouldn’t make me any happier in life. Not even a million dollars could do that, because none of it is able to take this pain away. Believe me if it could, I would already have found a way long ago to make that happen.
Finally, our get-together ends and we all head to the cash register to pay our bills. I ponder our next gathering as the woman takes my credit card and painfully hope that I feel far better by then. After saying goodbye and letting everyone know I’ll see them in a bit at our meeting, I drive away and head towards a quiet parking lot, the only thing I really have been looking forward to today. As when I arrive, I blast my heater in the car and find my eyes quickly getting very heavy.
I fall asleep and for those few short minutes I do, I experience the only peace I’ll probably have the entire day, peace that comes from not having to feel this awful pain, even if it is for such a brief moment. And that alone becomes the very thing I find I can be grateful to God for and something I vow to write about later that night, so that each of you might understand me a little better as you take a brief walk in my pain-filled shoes of life…
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson