Hello Otto: Shaking Hands with Pain (Part 1 in Chronic Pain Series)

food stampsI remember the little corner grocery store, the one directly across the street from the old apartment building we lived in.


My mom, my five siblings, and myself in a run down, tiny apartment.

I tried to time my visits to the grocery store when there were few people in the 7-eleven sized space. If others were chatting it up at the register, or meandering the few aisles, I walked around pretending to examine items. I waited until the store was empty and then hurriedly placed my items – usually lemon drops or Fire Balls, or a Charleson Chew, or potato chips – on the counter and shoved my food stamps over to the cashier, glancing around me. If no one saw me, I reasoned, then the shame I felt about being poor had no control over me.

But that was a lie that I swallowed. And swallowing it stained my insides a more repugnant color than owning up to the truth ever would have.

My parents were divorced, and my mom was on welfare. From this vantage point, it’s not such a big deal. In fact I’m “poor”  by many standards, ON PURPOSE now. But back then, well back then I hated it. I denied it. I fought it. I thought that once I grew up, I would leave all that childhood emotional nonsense behind  with the broken Barbie dolls, Easy Bake Ovens, and Magic Eight Balls.

Some of it clung to me, though. It raised its right hand with me when I joined the Air Force. It said I do along with me when the HH and I stood before a Justice of Peace and went through the speed version of marriage vows. It was there with me when I gave birth to my six children, and when I served in church, and when I rejoined the work force.

And it has been with me constantly this past decade in a battle against chronic pain.

Like paying for lemon drops with Food Stamps, I believed chronic pain was a character flaw, a weakness that I didn’t want others to see. It was best to keep it to myself. In this “I am Woman, Hear Me Roar” world, I vowed to conquer. If I sang Helen Reddy’s lyrics loud enough, it would drown out the roaring of my internal organs.


The things we resist, persist.

Or as the Bible says, in Proverbs 28:23:

He who hides his sins will not prosper, but he who confesses them and turns from them will find mercy.

Not the same thing, I know, chronic pain and sin. But I think the principle is the same. If we just try to hide our sins, they cling to us. We never move forward, never overcome. I think, perhaps, it is the same with anything we try to hide.

My word for the year is persist. It’s a word that I sensed the Holy Spirit whispering to me, and I will sit up and take notice when I see and hear it in 2020.

Holistic pain expert Sarah Shockley’s statement “What you resist, persists,” momentarily froze me.
I chewed on that for days.
Sometimes acceptance instead of denying can be a game changer. Letting stubborn resistance out of the arena is, at the very least, a great time out and a chance to recharge.
And at best,  it’s an opportunity to look at things from a different perspective.

I have known the truth of 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 for decades. But I guess I haven’t really walked it out.
And He said to me, “My grace is sufficent for you. My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will rather boast in my infimities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therfore, I take pleasures in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ sake. FOR WHEN I AM WEAK, THEN I AM STRONG. (emphasis mine.)
I have not arrived at the “take pleasure in” stage, but I am certainly more at peace then ever with the brutal, pour-acid-on-my-insides-and-set-them-on-fire pain of damaged organs.
Pain is not an everyday happening; I have months where the ugly ogre is sleeping. But it  has stolen some things from me, like long bike rides with the handsome husband. It has limited me in other activites that require sitting. When the orgre is awake, he devours and consumes. I have fought hard, doing everything I can do – healthy eating, healthy weight, exercise, pain management exercises, counseling, physical therapy – but still he knocks me down.

This time, this particularly rough season, I’m not going to engage in battle so much as rise up and declare a truce. Today, I will even name my ogre Otto, which means wealth, because I am expecting that  as I look to making friends  peace with him, he will have some gems for me.

Please hear me. Shaking hands does not mean handing over the sceptor to pain. In fact, it means taking it away. Instead of fighting, it means acknowleging pain’s presence without feeling shame; it means saying I know you are here and I am going to learn as much as I can about you.


I don’t know what is around the corner in my walk with Otto but it’s okay because each day brings beauty of its own.

I  believe that every good and every perfect gift is from God. I so easily accept from His hand all the beautiful gifts like an amazing family, a husband who is my best friend, a job I love, a fun craft room, daily walks, and laughter and writing and books and romance and sunshine and so much more. I am particularly  grateful for the tenacious and persistent joy He has given me through all the ups and downs of life.

I also want to accept the things that I do not have control over, those things  that don’t feel so “good and perfect.” I want to learn how to embrace them as gifts from His hand as well.

When I am weak, then I am strong. This truth, too, is a gift, that brings me closer to the One who gave His life for me.

I was diagnosed in 2005, have had a couple of surgeries and Otto is still here.

Today, I am letting go of shame and  publicly shaking hands with Chronic Pain. Hello Otto. While not friends, exactly, I think I’ll take some time to stop fighting you, consider my weakness as strength, and ask God to show me my purpose in it.

Thanks for stopping by,

Marie with a 🙂


3 thoughts on “Hello Otto: Shaking Hands with Pain (Part 1 in Chronic Pain Series)

  1. Pingback: In the stillness (Chronic Pain Series) – Marie-Ellen

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