Another 40 days and 40 nights (nearly) of Lent seemingly gone the way of failure. I sink into my hot cocoa mug, relinquishing the guilt that yes, our family gives up treats for Lent, that Jesus-diet guaranteed to break the monopoly sugar gut bacteria hold on my taste buds.
My hot cocoa desires are based in a coping mechanism. Coping with another long recovery. Coping with the broken sleep that even the best little side-nursing cosleeper still bestows upon me. Coping with mental juggling and a touch of postpartum anxiety. I’m no coffee lover, so cocoa caffeination is all I can cling to.
But this failure of really giving up treats brought me to another failure: my slow recovery. My pelvic floor took a number when I birthed this big baby and her shoulder dystocia. I’m healing on two fronts: internal pelvic floor and external SI-joints. My pelvis remains twisted and one side of my pubic bone is higher than the other. They’re called symphysis pubis dysfunction and diastasis symphysis pubis and I know others struggled with this throughout pregnancy and into their postpartum.
While I bustled around the country for the Blessed is She retreats, stupidly not even asking for a ride from those carts at the airport, carrying my 18 pounder in the carrier, my ligaments continued to not heal. While I decided to tackle changing over their coats and clothes for spring, sitting unevenly for hours, lunging forward to drag a pile toward me, bending to scoop up stray solo mittens, my ligaments continued in their frail state.
A first visit to the chiropractor after months of physical therapy revealed my bones are still in the wrong place. While my adjustment was thorough and helpful, the days after turned into Nell-back-in-bed, sore soft tissue, sore spots all around my ole mama body.
I hadn’t taken my recovery seriously enough, and tiring of my first month semi-bedrest, I had decided to just push through, just get going, just be in control again.
The other day, after a hot bath and my exercises, and laying in bed with a sleeping nursling, I sobbed to my mom, I’m like an invalid, a bystander in my own life. I can’t make a birthday party happen for my daughter; I can’t make a nice Easter dinner. It feels like from almost 7 years of pregnancy, birth, recovery, another vomit-filled pregnancy one after the other, I’ve been an invalid, a total victim to my choices, and a complete whining failure.
Her kind affirmation included words that stopped my tears in their rain gutters: it’s not a terminal diagnosis. Unlike people close to us who face cancer and other debilitating incurable diseases. I will heal up. I will look back and barely remember the inconvenience of a bad recovery. In the meantime, though:
What had I done with my suffering?
Had I whined and cried a lot. YES. Had I occasionally understood I could offer it up and bear it for the sake of my sweet friends who suffer with fertility challenges and miscarriage, infant loss and children differently abled? Yeah, sure. But had I really believed suffering to be a gift? Absolutely not.
Do you find yourself recoiling a little from that phrase? Oh, Nell, that’s so nice and Catholic sounding but let’s hope I’m not given the opportunity to live it out. That’s been me my whole life. I pray, “Give me suffering, Lord, but not very much.” Suffering means pain and pain is to be avoided at all costs because my life is a series of child-related-endurance races between netflix + ice cream binges.
This isn’t to say we’re not supposed to be happy and joyful and seek beauty and joy to have & to spread! Catholics aren’t masochists. We love a good beer, some serious dancing, and a celebration of the delights of our sexuality (read theology of the body, etc).
But what do I have to offer Jesus this Lent? I caved on the hot cocoa gift. But it’s not too late. It’s not too late to unite my suffering with those of my sisters & sisters-in-Christ to offer it as a paltry gift to Our Beloved this weekend. I may not be able to attend all the glorious liturgy. I may be in bed more than I’d like. I may sit idly by as my mom and sisters churn out a deluxe Easter feast.
But I can say, with my whole heart, this is a suffering, this is a gift.