Symbolically and in reality, I believe the “oil of joy” is something applied. It has a resonance, a vibration to it. It changes you.
You can breathe it in, affecting the oxygen taken in by the lungs and thereby making alive every cell of the body.
Grief, an emotion which is the opposite of joy, is often stored in the lungs and large intestines, which are also major cleansing organs in the body. Waste products and things you don’t need are to be let go of by these organs.
The Oil of Joy replaces and exchanges waste for wholeness and healing.
Grieving can perhaps also be a calling, reminding us of Jeremiah “the weeping prophet” – a man whose tears depicted God’s sorrow over His people’s suffering for their “missing the mark” and their coming judgment.
Early Impressions on a Life of Pain and Mourning
Farmhouse in Summer, 10×14 watercolor by Elise, September 2016
I experienced a fair amount of physical trauma at an early age. I was my mother’s “problem child” – always exploring, testing boundaries, feeling things with my hands. She would need to remind me to “look with your eyes not your hands” if we entered a store.
I was prone to disobeying her instructions and this got me into a whale of trouble.
My mom got off the phone when I was very small to find me going through her pocketbook. I had smeared her lipstick all over my clothes and chewed up her glass contacts, too.
Another time I went in the downstairs laundry and got my hands into a nice-smelling pile of sandy, white laundry detergent. After rubbing my eyes the soap burned terribly. I remember my mom stuck my head under the running bathtub faucet to try to wash the soap out and save my eyesight.
Once I ran out to follow my dad into the woods, and came home screaming with a horde of yellow-jackets following me. I had stepped into a ground nest wearing sandals and shorts. I was stung eleven times. A baking soda bath ensued…
My mom said I was her hardest child to raise.
The Pain of this World
I arrived with the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck, not breathing well. The doctor panicked, snatched me up and spanked me hard. My tiny foot was pricked, repeatedly, for a PKU blood sample. It hurt.
A very clingy baby, I never wanted to be put down. My wise mother spent a lot of time holding me. She said I cried as if I was in pain when she put me down, from a young age.
I had rickets, bowed legs, as a child. We believe fluoride tablets prescribed by her doctor when pregnant may have contributed to this malady. Sodium fluoride is a toxic poison which “shoots” the endocrine system, pulling all trace minerals, so my body probably didn’t have normal calcium or magnesium levels.
I beat the back of my head against a wall when I was very little, scaring my mother. She took me to a doctor, who suggested I was probably frustrated. She got me a little shoe-hammering toy and I spent forty-five minutes at a time, beating those little wooden pegs down, then turning the wooden “shoe” over again, to beat the pegs down again.
Determination was my autograph as a little girl. I learned to zip my zipper and tie my shoes very early. Fine motor skills developed which I use today.
A few times my mom saw me get smashed on the head by other children who were playing roughly. She was not able to get to me in time to stop them. As a result, I became increasingly non-trustful of children. I preferred to be with adults who didn’t play so wildly. I came to dislike parties and being with children. They usually injured me.
I didn’t see as well as my older sister at a young age. I’m sure beating my head on the wall was related and being knocked on the head hard from behind, too, by a child in Sunday School.
My mother’s pet name for me was “Lumpkin” because I had so many head injuries.
I ran into the wall when my dad called for us, not looking for the door.
My sister and I were sledding down a hill when I was around two. My sister was big enough to see the tree and roll off the sled, but I was too small. My forehead hit the tree. Another lump, more ice.
It’s not the best idea to tell a child they are “an accident looking for a place to happen” but that’s what my mom told me. She would say, “We are going to trade you in for a new model, from the head down”…
The Pain Caused by Eyeglasses
Then came first grade. I was taken to an eye doctor and fitted for glasses. I was excited by the idea of “being like mommy” and having glasses. But the moment I put the new pair on my face, everything in the room suddenly turned sideways. I told the eye doctor, and he replied, “Oh, you’ll get used to it.” He was right, but “getting used to it” meant an extreme amount of energy expended by the brain.
I hated those glasses. I spent three days in the teacher’s bathroom at school sobbing, afraid to enter my classroom. They were terribly ugly glasses, but I think seeing clearly scared me, too.
I stopped wearing them after a year and managed fine. My eyesight was far better then. I was shooting bulls-eyes with a BB gun around the age of eleven.
But after my dad left, my eyesight collapsed, perhaps because I didn’t want to see him leave.
Again, at age fourteen, I was given eyeglasses. This time it was a strong myopic prescription for both eyes, astigmatism and bifocals.
Anyone who thinks eyeglasses protect vision can think again. Eyeglasses, from my perspective, have really injured my eyesight. They have locked up my emotions and the perception of my surroundings!
I was prescribed a new and stronger pair of eyeglass lenses every two to three years after this. My eyesight continued to decline and did not stabilize.
Appointments with various optometry specialists always made me cry. I felt very sad and scared about my declining eyesight. I didn’t like being so different from my siblings – who didn’t need glasses to see.
Realizing I had been a Guinea Pig
Years later when I was twenty, I asked an eye specialist about my first eyeglass prescription.
He looked through the little lenses and said, “Oh, these are plaino in one eye and a very strong prescription in the other. The brain likes to be balanced and these eyeglasses could have given you major low back problems!”
My mother and I looked at each other.
I remember soccer games at recess in second and third grade. I was kneeling in the back of a pick-up truck on the way home because my knees hurt too much to stand up. I can see my swollen knees in family photos. My face often revealed how I felt, too. I was in constant pain.
I had no idea other people didn’t have the pain I had. I didn’t know what it was like to be out of pain! I thought you just bore it. I became pretty stoic, and very insensitive toward my body. I locked up my tears and my feelings for a long time.
After eight consecutive years of wearing eyeglasses, getting stronger and stronger prescriptions each time I saw an eye doctor, I stopped wearing them.
There was an instant improvement in my posture and pain level. I could feel my body again.
Glasses for near-sighted people treat only symptoms, not the cause, and I really feel strongly that my eyesight decline was a combination of my neck and head injuries as well as the issues surrounding the unresolved and stuffed emotional traumas, of which I was largely unaware even existed.
I know from my own experience that eyeglasses are not the best solution for all myopic situations.
I once asked a behavioral optometry specialist why I see nine images with one eye, when looking at small images at a distance. He said the fragmented images are caused by extreme tension in the brain. It may be very romantic to see nine moons at night, instead of one, but it’s not very practical!
The Pain of Serious Physical Injury
When the Roses Bloom, 10×14 watercolor by Elise, August 2016, Private Collection
When I was about to turn eight, I experienced a life-changing accident. I was attending the birthday party of a school friend and all the children were playing a game of volleyball. A big girl backed up to hit the ball, tripped and then fell on top of my body.
My neck didn’t feel right so I pulled away from the game. The birthday girl’s mother noticed, called my parents and we went to the hospital for an x-ray, to see if the injury was serious. They had full insurance.
In the x-ray room the osteopath told my mother to leave the room, he was going to take an x-ray. I heard the steel door bang shut behind my mother. Then the osteopath walked over to the gurney where I was lying and asked me, “How far can you turn your head?”
I was an extremely strong and active child. I preferred climbing trees to playing with dolls. My dad had taught me to do flips on the trampoline when I was five, and I began to also do flips on my bed. This wasn’t allowed but I did them anyway.
I replied, trying to be positive, “I can’t move it very far in this direction, but I can move it really far in the other direction” showing the doctor my range of movement as best I could while on the gurney.
He didn’t say anything else, he just took my head with both his hands and jammed it in the direction I said I couldn’t move it!! I screamed, in intense pain, and my mom heard me through the steel door.
Then, this doctor went around the glass and took an x-ray of my neck over my fully exposed thyroid. He showed the x-ray to my parents and said, “She doesn’t have a broken neck, she just needs to wear a neck collar.”
What if my neck had been broken or fractured before he yanked my neck?!
My mother and father realized this doctor had acted wrongly, it was clearly malpractice – he had really exacerbated the initial damage to my neck. But my mother didn’t think anyone would take the word of an eight-year-old child against a doctor.
I was given a neck collar to wear for a few days, but the serious damage done to my neck was not addressed.
I remember crying buckets of tears just after the accident, because my plan to ride the roller-coaster at Canobie Lake Park on my eighth birthday had to be canceled. It was a huge disappointment, as I loved riding this roller-coaster with my dad.
And I could no longer do headstands. It hurt my neck too much. Looking back, I’m sure the injury affected my dental health as well as my eyesight.
I lived with pinched nerves in my neck for the next six years. Sometimes, while running somewhere, the shooting pains up my back would cause me to freeze and fall to the ground, afraid to breathe because the pain was so intense.
My body did it’s best to compensate for the neck issue, and then I had mid and low-back problems, too.
By the time I was fourteen, I had fallen skiing and sledding, and been thrown to the ground countless times trying to ride our ponies bareback. My dad had taught me to dive off a diving board. He didn’t realize how injured my neck was. Every time I would hit the water, intense pain would shoot up my neck. I learned to land my dives feet-first as often as I could for this reason. I swam, and tried to run, too.
I was also splitting firewood after my dad’s absence so we could stay warm in the winters. Splitting wood was a strain on my back and neck.
Now that I think about it, I had tried to run the annual one mile and then 5K races in our town with pinched nerves in my neck, mid and low back. It’s no wonder I didn’t do well at running! Pounding on pavement was just too much for me.
The Pain of Partial Paralysis
Diligence, 10×14 Pen & Ink with Watercolor by Elise, September 2016
One Wednesday evening in the winter-time of my fourteenth year, my mom urged me, “Come on, Elise, it’s time to go, it’s nine o’ clock and we need to go home.” I was sitting on a couch after attending Bible Study. “Mom, I can’t get up,” I said.
My sister and mom gently pulled me to my feet and I could shuffle, slightly bent over, out to the car. I remember sitting down on the back seat and telling my legs to get into the car. They didn’t move at all. So I used my strong arms to lift each leg and put it into the car. Things were declining for me, physically.
I was in enormous pain just sitting in the car as it bumped over our dirt road.
“Mom, we’ve just got to do something!” I told her, “I am getting worse.” “Yes, Elise, but I am afraid to take you to a doctor. If they do surgery, you could wind up in a wheelchair for the rest of your life.”
My mother thought chiropractors were all quacks, but, in desperation, she took me to one.
The first man said I had developed a calcium deposit on my cervical spinal column. He said I’d need to see a chiropractor every week for the rest of my life.
We got a second opinion and she said, “What the body lays down, the body can take up.” One year later, that calcium deposit, laid down to protect my spinal column, had totally dissolved. I slowly regained full mobility by the grace of God and skill of a gifted chiropractor.
Learning through Pain
I have had many painful experiences to let go of. It has been a process of many years and I am still working at it, but can say I finally chose to reject the spirit of self-pity and to rejoice.
Giving thanks in all things was a much better response than feeling sorry for myself. And the best things in life often come out of the worst things in life.
I have often chosen to focus on what is beautiful when things looked very bleak, but today I consciously choose to feel joy in every moment. I have chosen to receive the oil of joy, which is the gift of the Crucified and Risen Christ to us. I chose to trust in God for health and healing, in His time.
To experience pain and to suffer doesn’t mean you are in the wrong place, although sometimes pain is a large motivation for growth and for change. For me, pain turned me toward my Father in Heaven, not away from Him. For this I am grateful.
Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 says something I’ve always thought of in relation to mourning:
“It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.”
There is more to say but this blog is far too long now. I will continue my series of thoughts on pain and painting in the next blog post. Thank you for reading, friends.
To your health and healing in 2017,
and because of beauty arising from accepted pain,
I remain your joyful artist-friend,