I realize that maybe what I need is a little more simple than I'm leading myself to believe. Yes, I'd like to have faith that I can handle even the greatest hardship. I'd like to believe I could be like the guy in "Life is Beautiful," who made the Holocaust into a fun game for his kid even as he was being sent to the gas chamber. But maybe that's aiming a little too high for a person who is currently sitting on her sunny front porch drinking a beer? Maybe I'm not ready to buck up and face a life of unremittant disabling pain.
Maybe what I need is the simple belief that the worst is unlikely to happen. Maybe I just need to take a few shots of optimism and say: Dammit, you're going to be OK. Then I need to just give myself a break and believe it. Maybe my story doesn't have to be chronic pain and doom and destruction and existential angst. Maybe it can be: I had a big herniated disc, I got it fixed and felt better. Now, I am having another problem with a (smaller) herniated disc. I'm going to try conservative treatments and, if they don't work well enough, make an informed decision about another surgery. In the mean time, I'm going to do the best I can and accept that there are some things I can't do right now. But I'm going to be OK. I'm already better than I was the last time, and the body has an amazing capacity for healing.
I am going to be OK. Those are the simple words I need to say to myself every time my mind goes crazy with the possibilities. I need to take it like Mia did, when I told her this afternoon that my back was hurting again. I had been so afraid of telling her, had cried 18 times just thinking about telling her. I finally just said, "My back is hurting again and I'm trying to get it fixed." She looked worried for a minute and said, "Not surgery again!" And I simply said, "I hope I won't need surgery. I'm going to doctors and trying to get it fixed without that. But if I do, I'll be fine. Remember how I got better the last time?" And she said, "OK," and went on doing her homework. She was happy and didn't say a word about it the rest of the afternoon. And she gave me the strength to ignore the damned pain in my back and enjoy the time with my happy child. Because she believed that I was going to be OK.
I'm going to start believing it too. Starting now.