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I had a doctor’s appointment this past week.  Which is not remarkable in and of itself.  I have a lot of doctor’s and they all require a visit from time to time.  But this doctor offered to take me off one of my medications, to see if I really needed it.

Medically, she is right.  There is a decent chance that I could wean off the meds without a return of the pain, the constant pain, and life would be fine.  Actually, life would be slightly better.  Less pain, less medication.

And yet, and yet, I said no.

I’ve talked here before about how hard it is to be healthy after you’ve been sick, and as I walked out of the doctor’s office I wondered how much of my no was about that.

Most of my no was about other things though.  I’ve only been pain free for about a year.  And I’ve spent most of that year re-learning how to tell when I’m in pain.  (I’m well aware of the depths of the problems in that statement.)  So I don’t trust myself to know if the pain did return if I stopped taking the medication.  I occasionally miss an evening dose and I notice that the next day.  The medication has few side effects, so staying on it has few negatives.

Someday, I hope, I look nervously forward too, I will get to say yes to this offer.  Despite how hard it is psychologically.  Despite how much easier it is to keep saying no.  Despite how scary it sounds.  Despite the open question of whether or not I can actually live, pain free, with out the meds.

But for now, for a lot of reasons, I’m staying on them.  One more pill.  It’s the right choice.  For me.  For this season.  For however long this season lasts.

When I, as the priest, the pastor, the person who is magically suppose to know what to say, hears my parishioners telling me what their life is like because of their disability or chronic illness, I hear my story.  I hear the stories of others with disabilities and chronic illnesses that I have listened to.  And I still do not know what to say.

Do I tell my story?  Is it over-sharing?  One of the great clergy sins?  Or is it reassuring my parishioner that they are not, in fact, alone?

Do I practice my “active listening skills”?  Leaving their story in the spotlight and letting them know passively, intuitively, possibly, that I understand?

I was not far along in seminary when I told my home congregation that there were no magic words, no perfect prayer.  There is just me, praying for wisdom and the best answer to this situation, for this person, each time this happens.

So sometimes, I tell parts of my story.  In the hopes that it is reassuring.  That my story helps bring their story closer to God.

And sometimes I just listen.  Actively.  Letting their story be in the spotlight.  And hoping that they know, somehow, that I really understand.

And sometimes I listen because I cannot, on that day, tell my story.  Because it is taking all of me to be there.  And I have no extra energy to make the decisions and draw the lines that let me tell my story.  These are the days when disability truly cripples us both.  The pastor and the parishioner.

The truth is, all of these have happened.

And the truth is, all of them will happen again.

I’ve recently found a great new blog: FWD/Forward.  It’s incredibly new and, though I forget how I found them, I’ve really been enjoying the voices of the contributing authors.  And, yet, every time I go to comment (which is not something I usually do, I’m a great lurker), I hesitate.  I hesitate because FWD is for Feminists with Disabilities.  I struggle with both of those labels.  Because I’ve been a good cultural sponge and I know that women are *suppose* to be quiet and well-behaved and people are *suppose* to be healthy.

But I have and express my opinions.  But my health, or lack thereof, impacts my life.  More than that, when I read posts like this one on narcotic pain medication I hear echoes of my story (you all remember The Headache?).

So I’ve been thinking about labels and what they mean.  About the truth.  About my life.

And I’ve been commenting and thinking and being slightly less alone in some of the muddle that is, rather frequently, my life.

And all of this, alongside FWD, is good.

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