Books Are My Boyfriend Mondays, Ed. 4: I Matter, Dammit!

2009 December 7
by Jenny

(Title inspired by Havi Brooks and her posts on The Dammit List.)

First, some guidelines:

1. No one has to read anything. There are no “shoulds” here. These are not assignments. This is just me saying, “Hey, I read this book and I thought you might like it.”

2. So therefore, it is impossible for anyone to get behind.

3. You can comment, or not. There are no “shoulds” there, either.

4. If you do chose to comment, you do not have to include passages from the books you recommend. (Although, of course, you can if you want to.) I just do that in order to give people a taste of what the book is like.

OK-on to the books

Of all the things I’ve lost since I’ve been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, one of the hardest ones I’ve had to deal with is the loss of my purpose; at least, the purpose I had all planned out in my head. And when  I can’t see past the pain, and the doctor’s appointments, and all the medication managment, that place of purposelessness-at least in my mind-is an impossibly scary place to be. That’s why I’m so, SO grateful whenever I come across books like these.

1. You Matter More Than You Think by Dr. Leslie Parrott

As she tells us on the second page, her message is very simple: “You are already making a difference-whether you know it or not-and the more you understand the difference you are making, the bigger that difference will be.”

As you might imagine I found the chapter on pain, titled “The Grinding Stone”, to be particularly helpful.

“A woman’s pain either makes her bitter or makes her better. I wince at even writing this hackneyed phrase, but it is true….Pain, in one way or another, eventually touches every woman’s life. And that pain either does us in or makes us the woman we aspire to be. Ultimately, the pain we carry in our hearts is the grinding stone that shapes us to love. It sharpens our capacity to be tender with another’s wounds and to empathize without judgment.”

She goes on to say that “Phillip Yancey thoughtfully calls pain ‘the gift that nobody wants’.” (Uh, YE-ah.)

“But make no mistake. It is a gift….Because of pain, you make a difference. Pain will give you permission to walk into places you’ve never dreamed you’d enter, and it can change your relationships like nothing else.”

And despite the fact that, Dear Universe: could I possibly have learned these lessons in a less brutal way?, I must grudgingly admit that she is right.

“So I ask you, friend, to consider the gift of your personal pain.” Um, ok, if I really HAVE to.

“I just want to encourage you to see that your pain is not without purpose.” I could hear this once a minute all day long, and it still wouldn’t be enough. But this is what I’ve desperately wanted to hear, so I’m willing to suspend my disbelief for a bit and take this on faith. At least for this moment.

“It can become the most powerful means you ever possess for making a difference. Consider whose life you can touch because of the pain you have endured. And consider how the pain of another person allowed them to touch your life in a way they would have never been able to do without it.

Pain, your personal grinding stone, has a purpose whenever it is used to make a difference.”

I really hope so.

2. She Did What She Could: Five Words Of Jesus That Will Change Your Life by Elisa Morgan

I stumbled across this little book by accident (or not!) the other day when I was just browsing around the bookstore. I skimmed through it and then put it back, but I kept thinking about it all the time over the course of a week or so, so I finally went back and bought it. And I’m so glad I did.

Once I read a couple of passages like this one, I was completely hooked.

“Most of us care, remember? We really do.. We care about our own lives, for sure, and also the lives of those around us. We care about poverty and injustice, about orphans and the sick. We care about the folks who live and work alongside us and about what happens in their families and their hearts and their heads.

We care. But too often we stop there because we think that in order for it to count, to make a difference that matters, we have to do something big. Or everything we could do. Or something no one else has done.” Hm, that sounds awfully familiar…

And so I’d like to pull out more amazing passages to share with you here, but the muscle burning is yelling, “Hey! Pain Meds! Right Now!” So I will just close by saying that her answer to this kind of “caring overload” is to examine each one of those five words: She, Did, What, She, Could-and give tons of real-life examples to show how I, in the middle of my fibromyalgia life, actually do have a purpose. That purpose being to ask myself in each moment, “What is here right now that I could do?”

I’ve been practicing this for maybe a month or so, and I have to confess that when I consciously ask myself that questions, there is always an answer. There is always something here that I could do to contribute somehow to what makes up my world. Important Side Note: I need to add a really important point here, which is that often the answer to that question is that what I could do right now is to take care of myself in that moment. That’s what I love about this question-my needs and others’ needs are equally important. This is not a one-sided giving on my part.

OK, off to rest now. As always, please feel free to suggest any books that you really like in the comments. And have a great Monday.

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