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A Smack in the Head (by Billy Coffey)

I blame it on my New Year’s resolution. That’s what was on my mind and what had abducted my focus.

I was on the couch trying to decide what I should spend the next 365 days trying to improve about myself. Since I’ve always been one convinced that nothing but a lofty goal is worth the effort, I decided to aim high. I was going to eliminate everything in my life that brought me pain, no matter what sort of pain that may be. Seemed good on the surface, but the logistics were problematic. Pretty much everything in my life had the potential to bring me pain. Even the good things.

The logistics were what I was pondering as I walked from the living room into the dining room and past my son, who reached out and gave me a hug that I barely felt. And I was still pondering them when I rummaged through the refrigerator for the pitcher of sweet tea and poured a glass of milk instead. Also when my daughter asked me (for the third time, she said) if she could play her video game for a bit.

Wasn’t paying attention at all. Because this Thing, this resolution, had carried me away from reality to a place where my body could not follow.

It’s a precarious position to be in, having to straddle two worlds. And impossible to do for very long without losing something along the way. Which is why my son asked me a question I did not hear, my daughter tried three times unsuccessfully to gain my interest, and I had a cup of 2 percent rather than sweet tea.

I would have probably remained in that state of Here But Not Really for a while longer if the cabinet door hadn’t have been left open. Because just as I took a sip of milk and wondered why it was not tea, I turned and smacked headlong into it. That was when my trip to Neverland came to a sudden and complete stop.

When I came back to reality.

I rubbed my forehead and heard the unmistakable giggle of a little girl from the other room. Physical humor is a art form, and one I unknowingly practice at times. It keeps both me bruised and my family entertained.

I stood in the kitchen and tried to retrace my steps, all to no avail. I couldn’t remember getting off the couch, couldn’t remember the walk into the kitchen, couldn’t remember anything. One moment I was alone in the living room, and the next a cabinet door was assaulting me.

Strange, huh?

But to be honest, this sort of thing happens to me all the time. Happens to us all, too. As much as we try to stay anchored to reality, we all have the occasion to wander in our thoughts. Things that need to be done, things we fear being done to us. Where we need to go, what might come next. The cares of this world are many, but they all serve one common goal—to rob us of the joy that is Here and Now.

I understood then that I could probably make any resolution in the world and be better off than making that one.

All the proof I needed to confirm that could be found in my absent-minded stroll from the living room to the kitchen. A little love from my son wasn’t enough to snap me out of my thoughtlessness. Neither was the responsibility of being a parent. Nor even the quench of my thirst. No, the only thing that reminded me of where I was and what I needed to be doing…was pain.

Which I suppose is why God allows things that will give me a smack in the head from time to time. He knows that’s just the thing that will keep my head where it needs to be. Sometimes it’s an unanswered prayer, even an outright No. Or a delayed promise. Or even a senseless tragedy.

Those are the things that tend to separate me from Him. Until I bonked my head on that cabinet, I thought pain was my enemy. Something I should resolve to remove completely from my life. I know better now.

I’m thinking that instead of resolving to hurt less, maybe I should resolve to hurt more. Because the only sure way to get to the yonder and later is to be in the here and now.

***

To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at at his website and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.

Pain Management

Last week, quite suddenly and inexplicably, my neck started hurting. It started out as a nagging, muscular thing. By Sunday morning it was downright debilitating. I made it to church, even made it through the worship set. But as soon as we got home I put on my jammies, took some extra strength Excedrin and spent most of the day lying on a heating pad. As I write this post, I am still in pain. I have an appointment with a chiropractor, but until then, all I can do is manage the pain as best I can.

Sometimes that’s all we can do, isn’t it? Manage the pain. We know (or at least we think we know) how to alleviate it, but sometimes all the other stuff in our lives takes precedent over immediate relief. So we endure and try to compensate.

Here’s what I learned over the past few days about compensating — too often we overcompensate. The pain that began at the base of the right side of my neck soon found a new home at the base of my skull, then radiated up the back of my head and behind my right eye. I didn’t stop the pain, I simply chased it to another location. I’m guessing I will continue to chase the pain from one place to another until I can get some relief. Because I’ve got to feel like I’m doing something other than simply enduring. Right?

Maybe not. Perhaps we’re meant to endure some things. Because without enduring the pain we can never truly appreciate the healing.

My observation, anyway.