The Process of Pain

Life is good. But every once in awhile we have a bad experience, a bad day, or even a bad year. These times can bring confusion, sadness and heaviness. The lens through which we see the world gets cracked, and nothing looks quite the same.

Right now I have a cracked lens and I am in the process of sitting in uncomfortable emotion. I have been here before – pain is the human experience and I have never been, nor do I ever expect to be, immune to it. Historically speaking I have learned a great deal from my pain. It has taught me a lot about who I am and what I really want. Pain can give you the guts to try new things – the “what do I have to lose” mentality. It can also take away your guts, leaving you to struggle with questions and a new reality.

Many things are out of focus, but a few things are quite clear. I am experiencing a renewed and heightened love for who and what surrounds me and I am less worried about the routine items on my list – the shopping and cleaning, the email, the ways I push myself on a daily basis. The ways that I mindlessly strive for a perfection that doesn’t even exist.

Instead I am hugging my husband, relaxing with my girls, and watching the flowers that are blooming in my front yard. I find myself staring at the most mundane things, squirrels and trees, and wondering about their daily existence. I guess you could say that pain brings you back to earth.

And although I am quite uncomfortable, I am also thankful to be grounded. Pain has slowed me down, reminded me to smile at people, reminded me to be genuine and compassionate. It’s an interesting experience to hurt and simultaneously feel significant gratitude about the little things.

It is natural to want to move through pain quickly. We don’t have time for it, we don’t want to feel it, or it’s too scary. But allowing people, things, or activities to simply “take away” the pain can be a real disservice to the process. If it’s left unresolved it can lead to false thinking or fear. It can shape the way you choose to live the rest of your life. It can leave you stuck instead of free.

I am still in the middle of my hurt so I don’t have hindsight for what it all means, but I do feel more tapped into the reality of life. The reality that things don’t always go the way I think they should and the reality that I don’t have complete control. It’s a great relief to know that I can’t control all things, and at the same time it’s very unsettling.

To protect ourselves from pain we may decide to “stay safe” by attempting to control every aspect of our lives – our activities, our relationships, our children, our work. We may decide to take the mainstream path rather than the road less traveled because there is a perception that it is a safer route. But following the masses or living someone else’s dream does not ensure safety; it can actually be more risky because you miss out on your own life adventure and the world misses out on your gifts.

A feeling of safety is possible if we can develop a deep sense of trust. Trust in the process or a trust in something greater than us. Or a trust in ourselves to surrender to the experience of life, which by definition includes pain, so we have an opportunity to become stronger and more aware human beings.

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