Hi! I’m Jo. Thanks for stopping by.
I started this page a few years ago to share a bit of my path through life in the hopes that some of it may resonate with you, the reader. That it may somehow add value to whoever stumbles upon it and reads a post or two.
I am a nature lover, a pretty good cook, an amateur photographer, a science geek, a bibliophile, an appreciator of art and music and all forms of creative expression. I like to move and be active, preferably outside. I walk a lot. I think a lot. I write a lot.
I have chronic pain.
Back in January of 2010, I stepped off a fire engine awkwardly on a routine call and injured my hip. Little did I know that what I initially thought was a minor injury would lead to months of various therapies, treatments, and eventual surgery, to a medical retirement from my job as a firefighter, and to an ongoing experience of pain.
I struggled for a long time. I felt lost, scared, confused, uncertain. I didn’t know who I was when I was suddenly no longer a firefighter. I lost my identity, my sense of purpose, my career, myself. All I thought about was pain.
But I gradually came to realize that I could lead a meaningful life, that we all can lead a meaningful life, no matter our current situation. That the rhythms of life, the rhythms I feel most strongly through movement, creativity, mindfulness, love, and adventure, are still present, even in the presence of pain.
I realized that the key to changing my pain was to turn up the rhythms of life and turn down the noise and discordance of pain.
I have to admit, it took me a while to understand that life wasn’t pain. I had spent a long time fighting my pain, battling it, trying to get rid of it. And by focusing all of my energies on the pain, I became my pain. It defined me. It controlled me. It defeated me. I didn’t want to give in to it, to give up. I thought that’s what acceptance meant, that it meant conceding to the pain, conceding to a life of limitation and fear and worry.
But that’s not what acceptance means. Once I was able to accept the pain as a part of my life and make some space for it, I was able to make room for all the other things in my life that really mattered to me, I was able to rediscover my worth, my identity, myself. I was able to find purpose and meaning in how I lived, whether I had pain or not. I recognized that pain was not the only thing in my life, that it was just part of my life, and that there were plenty of other wonderful, awesome, valuable parts.
It takes time to come to that understanding, that acceptance. I’m not sure what it takes to get there and suspect it will be different for everyone with some key underlying elements. For me, changing the way I experienced my pain took place through nature, through photography, through walking and movement, through cooking, through reading, through writing, through researching pain science, through school and studying movement, through talking about pain with folks on both sides of the equation – the patients and the practitioners trying to help them.
And, most importantly, my pain changed, my life changed, through loving and being loved. Through loving myself and allowing myself to be loved as well as through loving others, especially my husband and my dog, Buster.
It’s hard to love ourselves when we’re in pain, when we’re unhappy, when we’re frustrated and disappointed and scared. But love ourselves we must, so that we can be open to love and give love. Love really does have the power to heal.
It’s not an easy path, this pain acceptance thing and getting on with life, and it’s not a direct path. There is no map, no set of instructions, no Sherpa to lead the way. There is no one method to attain success, no one book to read, no magic surgery or pill or doctor to fix it for us. I wish there was, I wish I could offer that to all of you. But we must each find our own way. We can do so with the help of knowledgeable guides, with the help of our loved ones, our friends, our therapists, our trainers, our healthcare providers, but the answers, the way, lies within each of us.
Because, let’s be honest here, only we are in our bodies and minds 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. So it makes sense that only we can figure out how to successfully live with pain, even if that’s not what we want to hear. And living with pain doesn’t have to be a suffering existence; saying that pain is chronic is not a condemnation, it’s a reality we must come to terms with and learn how to live with. And we can live with it, happily and healthfully. We can live with it successfully. We can live.
We have the power to live a meaningful, valued, exciting, and purposeful lives, even in the presence of pain.
I took a wrong step and ended up on an unexpected path: a scary, unfamiliar, dark, and seemingly dangerous path. But it was still my path. It was still my way way forward, my journey, my life. It was just an unplanned route. The thing about unplanned routes, though, so frightening and uncertain at first, is that they can lead to beautiful things, interesting things, wonderful things.
Rather than focus on my pain, I’ve started to focus on my life. Rather than rue what could have been, I celebrate what is, what I can do, what can be. Rather than long for who I used to be, I am proud of who I am right this very minute. Rather than worry about the future, I live for today and I’m grateful for it.
See, there’s much more to me than pain. There’s so much more to life than pain; pain is just one of many experiences we all live. And once I stopped trying to figure out the meaning of my pain and started focusing on the meaning of my life, the world opened up to me. The world can open up for you, too.
I am lucky. I have a wonderful life. A life that is valued, meaningful, and beautiful, a life that is truly and fully lived, even in the presence of pain.
Movement, self-expression, mindfulness, education, acceptance, nature, love, adventure. Enjoying the simple things in life.
The things listed above have helped me to find my meaning, they have illuminated my path and guided my journey, they are things that matter to me and which I now focus on, instead of the pain. I want to help you find your things that matter, too.
So, that’s pretty much what I talk about here.
My hope is that sharing my path, of how I got here and where I’m going, will help others see their pain a bit differently, too. That it will help them focus less on the pain and more on the aspects of their lives that they value, that they find meaning in, that they enjoy, that they love.
I hope you enjoy the posts and I would love to hear from you, I would love to hear about your journey.
With love and warmth,
Joletta Belton (Jo)