Monday, April 26, 2010
All I know is that my sinuses feel heavy and a headache has been threatening all day.
To add injury to insult, I've been going for physical therapy on the rotator cuff of my left shoulder, three times a week for the past two weeks. The progress has been slow but steady.
On Friday, however, the doc got a little too aggressive and the manipulation hurt so bad it made me cry. It's been tender all weekend but last night, I went to pick up the cup of tea from my bedside table and, well, let's just say it wasn't pretty.
I had therapy again today, which has resulted in some improvement, but I had to come home and take some pain meds this afternoon which pretty much knocked me out of commission.
Not to worry. I'm gong to be fine. Really. These things just take a long time to heal. But, they do. Eventually.
I only told you all of that to tell you this:
As I was struggling to find a comfortable position this afternoon, I remembered an old meditative trick taught by the nuns of my youth.
When we went to the dentist or were going to have a medical procedure, we were advised to say the rosary. The praying of each decade is followed by a meditation on one of the 15 Mysteries of the Life of Christ.
The fifth decade, as I recall, was reserved for the Sorrowful Mysteries of Jesus. Meditate on this, the good sisters promised, and you would know pain relief.
All we had to do was consider how Jesus suffered for us - The Agony in the Garden, The Scourging at the Pillar, The Crowning of Thorns, The Carrying of the Cross, and The Crucifixion - and whatever pain we were feeling was guaranteed to lessen.
But, the heating pad hadn't yet cranked up to it's maximum effectiveness and the pain med hadn't kicked in and I was pretty desperate.
So, I grabbed my rosary beads and began. I closed my eyes and allowed myself to get into the rhythm of saying ten Hail Mary's, one Our Father, and one 'Glory Be'. It's like any other chanting meditation, except there are more words. Funny thing is that, after a while, you don't even think about the words any more. You just get into the rhythm and let it carry you.
When I got to the fifth decade, it was time to meditate on the Five Sorrowful Mysteries and, as I had been carefully taught, remembered that my petition of prayer was to ask for mercy.
I don't know why this happened. I'm sure it's a sign of my wickedness. Proof positive that I am, as the Psalmist writes, "a sinner from my mother's womb."
The first thing I remember is getting an image of The Divine Mercy of Jesus. It's the image on the top of this post.
The next thing I remember was giggling.
We used to call this picture, "The Drag Queen Jesus."
None of us knew what a Drag Queen was, exactly, except it was something more than "Uncle Milty" (Milton Berle) who used to be on TV on "Your Show of Shows" and occasionally dress like a woman but talk like a man while smoking a cigar.
That was guaranteed to make you instantly dissolve into giggles.
The one that's him in a semi-profile, every hair carefully combed into place, his beard carefully trimmed, his best white tunic, and perfect back lighting to add that certain 'divine glow'.
You know, the one his mother hung over the fireplace in their little hovel in Bethlehem.
Yeah, that's the one. Over to your left.
I started giggling even more as I remembered some of the lunch room conversations we kids used to have about this - and other images of Jesus.
The nuns always had pictures of Jesus with children around the classroom. I got up, adjusted my heating pad, and started searching the internet for one of my favorite pictures of Jesus and children.
Isn't it special?
It always made us wish we had been one of the children to have been lucky enough to be in that picture with Jesus.
I remember Sr. Mary Bucky (I think it was really 'Bernadette' but we called her 'Bucky' - not in her presence of course - because she had wicked splayed and bucked teeth) telling us that, if we contributed enough to 'save' ten Pagan Babies, we just might find ourselves invited to have our picture taken with Jesus, one day.
I think I actually saved five Pagan Babies (you had to bring in a dime a week to fill one card with 10 slots. The money would go "Missions" so Father could baptize a baby - in Africa or somewhere in Asia) who wouldn't otherwise be saved by the blood of Jesus.
That was five whole dollars - a lot of money back then, especially since I got $1.00 a week allowance and was expected to give $.25 per week to the church. Add a dime ever week for a Pagan Baby and well, you begin to get a basic, rudimentary meaning of the word 'sacrifice'.
We had our own version of Sr. Wendy who would interpret religious art to us, for our spiritual edification.
The door, she said, is your heart. She had us notice that there was no handle on the door. That's because Jesus can't open the door to your heart unless you open your heart to Him.
Well, that, in my 7 year old estimation, was just flat out silly. If Jesus is all powerful and all knowing, he doesn't need a handle. He would be able to know how to open the door of your heart without even breaking a sweat. And, six times before breakfast!
Which, of course, only inspired classic Roman Catholic kid questions like, "Sister, if God is all powerful, would he ever create a rock He, Himself couldn't lift?"
Which would lead Sister to point out that the weeds in the portrait were symbolic of the clutter and accumulation of sloth in the human mind and the bat flying around in the darkness was symbolic of human ignorance.
Yup. That's what I remember hearing her say. And she thought I wasn't paying attention. I do remember her saying, once, "Young lady, if you roll your eyes once more I'm going to knock them back into your head so they never stop rolling."
I never worried about that. What I did worry about was the stories some of the nuns told us to get us to behave in church.
"There was once a little girl, just about your age, who once chewed into the host in her mouth rather than allow it to melt at the roof of your mouth. And do you know what happened to her?"
"No, what sister?"
"Jesus CRIED OUT in AGONY and BLOOD came flying from her mouth!"
"True story, children. Now, you don't want to have that happen to you, do you?"
"Good! Then never EVER chew the host. Understand?"
"Always . . . what, children?"
"Let it melt in your mouth, sister."
"That's right. Very good."
Besides, as comedian Kate Clinton points out, years of practice getting a melted host off the roof of your mouth with your tongue is excellent practice for other, future, adult 'divine joyful mysteries'.
As I explored all the many varied images of Jesus on the internet, what I began to realize was that I hadn't been paying attention the pain in my arm. Suddenly, it was much more bearable.
I'm thinking of writing a new meditation for former Roman Catholic kids using our childhood images of Jesus.
These would be "The New Joyful Mysteries of Jesus: Or, how I learned to relax and finally enjoy my RC childhood."
Or, maybe I'll just call it "Mercy!"
It's one of the best analgesics around, leading you to a place in the middle of a high or low pressure system, or trapped somewhere in between the two. .