Friday, October 14, 2011


I was struck by a line I came across today. It's an unattributed quote which seems to be an self-help aphorism about life in general.

It goes, "Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional."

I was chewing this one over and it finally came to me that this is really the response I was always looking for when people asked about my condition. {This is Robb writing, by the way}

In a medical setting, I got used to being asked about my pain level and was trained to give an answer on a one to ten scale. I remember deliberately never allowing myself a "ten" or even a "nine," thinking, "It could be worse."

Here's the thing, though: once you get to seven or eight, is it really fair to call one or two or three "pain?"

Instead I just started calling my usual day-to-day flare ups, "discomfort." The overall message I wanted to convey was, "I'm fine."

Now, I feel like I can articulate this point so much better by saying:

Yes, I have all these things going on, but ... I'm not suffering.

To suffer is to let your situation overwhelm you. Whatever it is. I really do believe that we each have a choice about how we look at the world, ourselves, and the million details that make up our surroundings.

Even if we can't control all those details, at least we can find enough joy in some of them to hold back the darkness.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Incidentally, this blog post is a milestone. It is the 1,500th posting on How's Robb. That works out to about 20 posts per month for the last five and a half years! Lisa, who has produced about 99% of this, is amazingly prolific (and brilliant) and repeatedly astounds with her broad interests, astute observations and startling good photographic eye.

She is the reason this blog seems to be worth reading and the reason that, while I may hurt, I don't suffer.


Bubbaloo Magoo said...

Rock on, Robb. Rock on! That is an amazing post for such an amazing number!

Sheila said...

Congrat's on 1500!

Rob, it is true that you attract what you put out there. If you put out suffering and pain, you attract more suffering and pain. You are fine!

Carolina said...

This is a sweet and very thought provoking post. Thank you.

Debbie said...

Thank you for this post Robb. Sometimes we need a gentle reminder to be a glass half full kind of person. That's what I'm trying to be right now.

JGH said...

Good to hear from you, Robb, and a very wise post. My husband also suffers with chronic (undiagnosed) pain. You've given me a new perspective and understanding of what he's going through.

camissonia said...

Good for you, Robb, and I'm inspired! I was recently diagnosed with cervical spinal stenosis after experiencing prolonged pain & numbness down both arms and from the neck up. I'm 46, so should have a lot of fruitful years ahead of me, but my neurologist told me - no more extreme gardening, which is my raison d'etre. Almost got sucked into a deep depression, but decided life was to short to give in and give up. So, spot on - yes it hurts, but no, I'm not suffering. Keep up the good cheer with the ever-present hope that some doctor or medical advances will find a cure to your chronic pain. And kudos to Lisa for her many informative and entertaining posts!

Rabid Quilter from CA said...

How can a post on life's pain give us joy? Because the two of you are so insightful, deep and just plain amazing. We needed this to put things in perspective right at the moment. If we're going to see you on Saturday, we'll explain.

~~Doublesaj & Old Blue~~

Steve, Christa, Emily, Meghan, Charles & Elizabeth said...

Congrats on so many post, and maintaining a positive attitude. I am sure that is why you have achieved all that you have.

I have learned that numbers one thru 6 on the pain scale are "uncomfortable" and that 7 is where actual pain begins, you are very wise. The beginning of your post reminds me of a conversation I had with a mother at the Ronald McDonald House, she was always there when we would come in to cook dinner over the course of two years. I asked her how she managed to do it with both of her children in and out of the hospital away from home 6 or more months of the year? Her reply, "no one gave me a plan B."

Elephant's Eye said...

Writing 20 posts a month, could rate a 2 or 3 on the pain scale, in the midst of a busy life ;~)

I think this is the first, written by Rob post, that I have happened on here.

I congratulate you both on the milestones you have reached. Diana

Barby said...

whoever wrote that quote was a eise person, and I have great admiration for you as you have continued your journey. I do enjoy your posts - whether it is about the bees, reconstruction, theatre - I can relate. The best to both you and Lisa.

spencer said...

Thanks for verbalizing this. Hearing you say that made me realize that part of why I've followed your blog for a long time is the recurring details of joy. Lisa's photos capture so much of that so well. Nobody would blame you if you wallowed in negativity, but the fact that you both regularly choose not to is inspiring, and often delightful.

jess s said...

This was such a sweet, tender blog post. Thank you for writing it.


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