It may seem like an unoriginal title (especially with Germanic precedents, e.g. Mein Kampf), but it seems like the best (in truth, the simplest) word to capture what I’ve been going through for the last several months. My struggle is both physical and psychological. Without boring you with the details (partly because it’s largely undiagnosed thus far), I’ll just say my symptoms have presented themselves as unexplained nerve and muscle pain. It started in my hands – so suspected overuse injury from piano – but it gradually spread to other parts of my body. I thought, back in late April, that it would heal after resting a few weeks and I would return to my studies as a piano major. But when it came, a month or so later, to having to unenrol out of studying piano, I knew I had to follow a new path (or would at least, for now, I had to take a detour, I hoped – still do). Having to face and accept the cards I was dealt, I hurriedly decided to supplant my performance paper for a church history and politics paper (two subjects that apparently don’t make a good mix, but which I’ve found to have striking parallels actually). But ever since, life has never been the same as my suffering and pain persisted, intensely trying my patience. My spirits have soared high and sunk low.
Often I look back to the day I received the exhilarating news that I’d been accepted to study piano performance at the New Zealand School of music. I gloated for weeks about this prestigious opportunity to further my musical experience and ultimately to live the dream of ‘living and breathing music’. And as my first day to starting this journey came closer and closer, I became increasingly optimistic yet admittedly a little daunted at the amount of hard work I was to put in (“four hours practice daily,” I was told). Now too, regarding the future, there are times I have been intensely optimistic and ambitious about my potential for great things – and have indulged in this ‘glory’ of overcoming obstacles. But possessing this mindset has become more of a struggle; and so naturally I’ve painted for myself – with relatively more ease – a depressing reality with no hope. Indeed, it is much easier to dwell on my limitations than focus on what I can do in this trial that’ll make me retrospectively not regret the ‘refining’ value of it.
Today, life is still painful – physically and psychologically – and it has helped no less by my (still) busy uni schedule, but I’m beginning to see the silver lining in these clouds that surround my life. My inhibiting limitations have made me take pleasure in, and be grateful for, the little things I can still do, which are either taken for granted or cursorily dismissed in my fast-paced study life. Yet I still often recourse to becoming depressed over the extent to which my limitations preclude me from realising the full potential of my courses of study and performing to the best of my ability. For someone who has always endeavoured to reaping the full benefits of my study, and sought to maximise the efficiency of achieving this, it has become pitiful to pare back my work efforts to accommodate for my circumstances. It’s not all pitiful though, I’ve realised: I’m still able to learn, although not in my best condition to; I’m still able to come to lectures, although taking notes is painful; and I still wake up each morning in the comfort of my bed, although my mind and body feel horribly stagnant, and to the loving care of my family, although I am not looking forward to the day unfolding with all its unpredictable pains and accompanying anxieties.
There is also, of course, the hope I will become better. But, in any case, I am content. Enormously grateful. More than blessed. I still have the simplest yet greatest gift: life, and life abundantly (John 10:10).
(PS in case you were wondering how I typed all this, it’s thanks to the help of dictation software.)