When Life is Painful
“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don't really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It's just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.” – Pema Chödrön
Lately, it has been incredibly hard to write. So, I haven’t. I’ll be honest; I have no solution, no final wrap up for the end of my post. And yet, I will write anyway, because quite humbly, I realized there really is no final wrap up for any event, just often a sentiment of an ending that brings us enough satisfaction to close the book on that one and move on.
There have been excruciatingly hard situations that keep presenting themselves to me. Granted, nothing (at this point) life and death, yet still extremely difficult and painful to walk through. Now, I recognize most stories provide details to pull the audience in, but I am not going to be specific. And that’s part of the reason it has been challenging to write. It involves another person, and I owe it to the person to respect their privacy. Their story is not mine to tell. And yet, it greatly affects me.
Additionally, details of each other’s stories tend to bring judgment more than understanding. We look for the differences instead of the similarities. What is overwhelming to me may be a drop in the bucket for you. But when we put the details aside, we all know what it means to hurt. We know the pain that brings uncontrollable tears and immense grief.
So, my goal is to write honestly about living life – as a woman, a wife, a mother, a friend, and especially as a person in recovery. That last quality can make things a little extra challenging sometimes. Why? Shouldn’t it make everything all better? It’s all rainbows and unicorns or else I wouldn’t choose to be in recovery. Right?
Actually, the opposite is true. Everything is real. Pain is real. Sadness and anger – all real. And they have to be dealt with or they don’t go away. They linger, like the smell of syrup on a toddler who had pancakes hours before (my kids just had waffles, so this is particularly relevant at the moment).
My choice to be in recovery means that in exchange to live and feel true joy, to know the gift of being present, I also accept the hurt and discomfort as it comes - no delay, no numbing. I gave up the option to numb when it was no longer a choice if I wanted to survive.
Lately, it has been hard. It’s been years since I woke up with puffy eyes or a pit in my stomach that just doesn’t go away. I’m done crying. I’m done feeling. I want to just go about my day without this incredible burden. The temptation is to run, to stop what hurts and not look as it as an opportunity.
So, for me, these are exactly the types of situations when I have to pull out all the stops. It’s why I need to be honest about my feelings, talk to trusted friends about what is going on, and simply just take care of myself in daily life, by eating well, exercising and breathing. (Yeah, that last one seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be amazed how easy it is to forget this one!)
This is why I have to clean out the cobwebs of my past so they do not clutter my perspective of today. Otherwise, I bring forward resentments that can cloud reality as it currently stands. These types of situations are like the big game for which days, weeks and months of practice are finally put to the test. It’s not just talk of being peaceful and present, it's action. This is when I get to see what I’m really made of, and how I move through the tough times.
I do believe, for myself, that I am not given more than I can handle.
And if the things I fear the most actually do happen, I will probably just implode into a puff of smoke, so I won’t even be around to evaluate (because I would have already imploded). Admittedly, there are things I just don’t think I could handle. However, I need to remember, today, I am not there. I do not need to jump ahead. Yet, this situation is real; it has my attention.
But the most important factor in all of this, and my point in writing, is just simply how to move forward. I’m not content at this moment, because I am plagued by this situation. Yet, I am not alone in facing hard times. I would – quite confidently - venture to say that we all have situations, events that are uncomfortable, undesirable, and just painful.
Yet, we are still here.
We choose to move forward, because without that step forward, we either stay in the same place, or even move backward. I don’t want to do that. Been there, done that. Today, I know better. Today I know that while things may seem unmanageable, I also know that things can radically change in 24 hours – as long as we stay present for the change. If we block it out, ignore it, numb it, as is so very tempting to do, we might miss that glimmer of hope that can miraculously come out of nowhere at any moment. Plus, and arguably even more frustrating, the situation will most likely still be there despite any effort to block it or go numb.
I don’t want to block the experience, and therefore the lessons, the potential for my growth. These experiences of pain are what help propel me forward to take on the next challenge, the challenge that for without this experience I would not be prepared. So, for today, I remind myself why I am staying present for this pain, why I will feel the sting of my tears. I am ready to grow.
And I must remember that I am not in control.
It hurts! And it’s scary! But I am not in control, whether I like it or not. All I have to do is look outside and see the branches moving in the invisible force that is the wind. I see the century old tree that started out as a seed much smaller than my hand. These are miracles; the little glimmers of hope reminding me that anything is possible.
So, when it gets hard, I keep it simple. I stay honest, especially to myself. I act with kindness, especially to myself. I do enjoy - and I mean, sit and truly enjoy, a bowl of ice cream with chocolate sauce. (And I don't share, despite the crowd of little people that starts to surround me.) This gives me pleasure, and unlike past vices of mine, this will not hurt me. I am reminded that I can find pleasure and enjoyment in the everyday, whether it's the wind in the trees or even in a bowl of dairy-filled heaven. While anything can be used to numb, these pleasures, for me, in moderation can also bring bits of solace when pain is all around. So, ice cream, pizza (yes, another comfort of mine), and then toss in some mindless TV, a good run, and a captivating book - these are also in my tool box of ways to move through pain. I need to remember what feels good, too.
Most importantly, I need to stay humble and surrender to the powers that are greater than me, as well as the powers that are within me. And I do remember tomorrow is a new day. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, nor do I need to. I only have to deal with this day, this moment in front of me, until the next one presents itself. Then, I deal with that one. And while time doesn’t heal all wounds, it gives us experience and often a new perspective.