This week, I am in a place I’d hoped not to be: a fibro flare-up. I have managed incredibly well since last fall and, almost, convinced myself this wouldn’t happen again.

And yet, it has. In the midst of pain, sleeplessness and new injury, I am stubbornly trying to use all of the lessons and awareness I’ve accumulated to NOT plummet into my old patterns. Patterns of closing up, numbing myself and falling into the murky abyss of disconnection and isolation. I am catching myself.

Fortunately, I understand what triggered this and I am coping by not only taking care of myself, but seeking help from others. I didn’t use to do that. I’d suck it up and suffer alone, which only made things worse.

I am trying to detach and be the observer and also bless this experience. That practice has proven extremely beneficial in the past few months, although it’s much easier to apply to little, annoying things.

Monday at the chiropractor, he gave me something new to chew on: “What if you’re not worse, but this is a step toward discarding old injury.” You mean like taking a half step backward to get two steps ahead, I asked. “Yes,” he responded, then left me to stretch on his table and take my time getting up. Tears flooded my eyes, memories, my brain and knowing into my body: he’s right. I am getting a second chance. Another shot at responding to the kind of trauma that set this whole thing off.

It is the response, I am understanding more than anything, that makes the difference.

Sixteen years ago, I had a miscarriage and, for years, my body tried to hang onto that baby, punishing itself for losing it. Fourteen years ago, an automobile accident caught me in a twist and I froze.

Last week, an unexpected medical procedure revolving around my reproductive system (sounds familiar, huh?) tapped those experiences and disease. This time, however, I am not fighting it by closing up. I am trying to surrender into it. It’s not easy and counter to what my body feels like it’s programmed to do.

More importantly, I am not letting my mind go ballistic, getting ahead of the situation and already putting one foot in the grave. I prefer to believe my body is preparing to shed a layer of old, deep pain.

Yesterday, I sat down to do some more editing on the book I have been writing and re-working for what seems like eternity. The first chapter is Pain as Teacher; so, here I am letting it be.

What is this pain, this experience teaching? To remain present, surrender into the experience, expected the unexpected, be positive and trust … not run to the conclusion that this is all bad. It may be uncomfortable, but it doesn’t mean punishment. It may actually mean healing.

This will not crush the dream I am in the process of realizing: opening an art studio for under-served kids, publishing my book, making art and offering nurture groups.

Truth be told, before I recognized what was happening, I asked God why this – pain and injury preventing me from living and dreaming ­­– was happening again. I needed to articulate that fear. I did it in the comfort of the meditation tent I’ve constructed in my new studio. Then the phone rang and one of the six people I’ve asked to serve as an advisory committee for this kids’ program instantly said yes – no hesitations. I figured it was God’s way of telling me that nothing will stop my dream. All six have agreed: no arm twisting.

Key to holding all of this, this time, is balance: knowing when it’s time to push through and also when to relax and surrender into healing. Previously, I’d totally push until I was depleted or completely succomb to shutting myself down.

I am grateful to get the opportunity to do it right this time. First, to be aware of what this is, then to surrender into it, but not let it eat me. The best way to do that is to trust.

• How do I typically react when things aren’t going well?

• What’s my programmed response been?

• How do I re-program myself?

• What is the response that is better for me?

• How do I trust God in these situations?

I’ve been cruising along

for many months

like I used to

until I hit a roadblock

and the old junk

came flooding back

like an unwelcome

tidal wave

into my body and brain

and yet,

my spirit had something

to say

“don’t go here,

it’s not your path

THIS time”

and I was actually

able to listen

and respond



Views: 135

Comment by Philip Wood on 6th mo. 7, 2012 at 4:09pm

Cathy, thanks for the thoughtful reflection.  I'm sitting here writing 'The Gospel of Slow', pondering all those ways that slowing down is good news.  Yet slow suffering hardly seems good news.  In fact it seems the opposite.  Your chiropractor has a good response to the conundrum.  Half a step backward and two steps ahead sounds like a slow, journeying discipline to me.  Your positive, teachable attitude sounds like another slow discipline too.  Last year I had what is sometimes called a 'nervous breakdown'.  I had all kinds of plans before that - books, projects, vocational changes.  More than once I asked 'Lord, why'.  I don't know that I received a direct answer, but in the end the most 'sense' emerged from the pace of it.  The physical journeying we're now doing with 'Walking Church' is somehow connected.  God be with you in peace and healing.  Phil

Comment by Cathy Barney on 6th mo. 7, 2012 at 6:27pm

I love the title, "Gospel of Slow!" I feel as if I live that ... more and more I honor it as a gift and not a curse. You're right about what the chiropractor said ... sometimes it takes another perspective to shed truth.

Because I am very permeable, I have to be careful to not let someone else's pace quicken mine or I get into trouble.

I just googled "Walking Church" and am intrigued ... can you tell me more? Grateful that your suffering, too, has a silver lining. Thank you for taking the time to read and respond so thoughtfully!


-- Cathy

Comment by Philip Wood on 6th mo. 8, 2012 at 3:41am

Hi Cathy, 'Walking Church' has been with me for a few years now.  I'm grateful to my own church (Wood Green Mennonite Church in London) for getting their boots on the ground.  'Walking Church' is a form of journeying discipleship where faith happens at 3mph.  It has also been described as a 'fresh expression of church'.   We already have a network of people interested in walking along similar lines in the UK but following an article in the Mennonite World Review (which also contains a link to a BBC interview) we have quite a few exploring possibilities in North America.  There are plenty of dimensions to Walking Church (ecology, health, meditation and mission) but peace commitments are at the heart of it.  This is something we want to share more widely but we've been reflecting that sharing faith as an invitation to a literal journey has a peaceable pace about it.   The fullest reflection on pace is over at the splendid Innermost House page.  I've been doing quite a lot of blogging around Walking Church, in addition to the other publicity.   This may seem a curious comment but the journeying nature of the outward form of Walking Church takes us on a road that is walked both by Quakers and Anabaptists.  I have just set up a Facebook page.  Peace, Phil

Comment by Paula Deming on 6th mo. 8, 2012 at 10:46am

Cathy, I have fibro too. For years I chased cures, and when I had a flare-up I would beat myself up. A real pity party. But at some point I realized that I wasn't doing any good by flagellating myself, and it frustrated my husband for me to do that as well. So I gave myself over to the flare-ups, and learned that I got better faster.

I now recognize that any illness or disability can be a gift if we let it be so. It's a teachable moment to others as well. Well-meaning friends want to help me, and offer ideas for healing. But accepting your condition = being healed. That's a deep lesson for everyone.

I also can do God's work a lot better when I accept my gifts, including the one that causes me to slow down and recenter in God.


Comment by Alice M Yaxley on 6th mo. 8, 2012 at 1:30pm

Thanks for posting this Cathy.

Comment by Cathy Barney on 6th mo. 13, 2012 at 7:49pm

Thank you, Philip, I do want to learn more and will visit you facebook page. I really value your comments. Paula, you do know my condition, don't you. Such wisdom ... thank you so much for sharing. I appreciate the comment, Alice. Blessings, all.


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