The Gift of Pain

March 26, 2015

Glenwood - Jan - March 2008 & RLP 076 “Be sure and stay ahead of the pain.”  Words from the pharmacist years ago as I picked up yet another bottle of  addictive pain medication for my 20 year old daughter who had recently had her tonsils removed.  Being a “push through the pain” kind of girl, I asked her just what the hell that meant anyway.  It seemed to me that having the courage to tough it out was the better approach. One to be proud of and that showed the strong stuff of which I am made. “The body, when faced with the choice of dealing with the pain, or healing the injury, can only focus on one of those and, in the proper order” she replied. ” Resolve the pain. Heal the patient.” In other words healing is hindered when pain is ignored. Heading back home, I resolved to help her heal by helping her resolve her pain.

Our bodies are but a microcosm of the greater whole.  Found embodied in our relationships and in the body of the world, pain is everywhere. Close to home and in the farthest reaches of the world.  It is within our hearts and our homes, amidst our communities and countries, in the halls of our organizations and schools.  Unresolved pain is wracking our planet and threatening our shared futures large and small, and is an indication that there is healing to be done.

Pain hurts.  Deeply.  Acutely. Sharply. Chronically. Our natural reaction to pain is to avoid it.  Afraid of the hurt we react in fear, provoking ancient coping mechanisms.  Fight, flight or freeze.

Putting up our dukes and hitting back causes further injury.

Running for cover furthers us from the healing we long for, but can’t see because we are facing the wrong direction.

Hunkering down and refusing to budge drives pain deeper and healing further away.

When it comes to resolving the pain in our lives, none of those lead to the healing that is waiting for us on the other side.  Wherever the pain exists, it is calling us to attend to it fully, in order to more fully live.  It requires that we dive deeply into the pain in order to get to the bottom of it.

Pain is our call to action in order to heal that which is broken.

Pain is the canary in the mine alerting us that we are running out of air.

Pain is the lighthouse exposing the rocks which will dash our ship to pieces if we don’t steer with care.

Pain is the warning sign alerting us to dangers ahead.

Pain is the breadcrumb path that leads to wholeness.

Pain is the care package that must be unwrapped in order to receive the gift of healing.

Healing trumps holding on to old hurts.

Healing beats clinging to our stories that keep us stuck in old chapters.

Healing always outlasts winning.

Healing outshines the darkness of resentment.

Healing is a cut above the festering wounds of unforgiveness.

Healing forges wholeness out of the holes in our hearts.

Wherever the pain, it is the doorway through which healing awaits. Pain speaks the truth.  The truth sets us free.

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It seems that lately, I just can’t stop crying.  Pain is everywhere.  Sadness abounds, and grief is abundant. It just seems to be a very, very, very real part of life.  In fact there are days, weeks, months where it seems to be the central character in my story.  It isn’t that I have a sad life, or even that I have experienced an abundance of personal tragedy.  But there is, no doubt about it, a very deep well filled with heartache.

The funny thing is, I don’t think that this is a bad thing.  Not that I love to cry until I can’t see or breathe, nor do I look forward to the days that pain and sorrow fill my heart till I think I might actually die.  But I have come to believe that pain has a purpose.  It can, if I let it, become the doorway to compassion and kindness, love and tenderness.  As I sit with the hurt, and just let it wash over me, I am able to understand that this is part of what makes each of us human, and, that it is part of the richness of life. It makes it possible for me to see, understand and connect to the hurt in those around me.  And hopefully it helps me to sit with them in the midst of their pain.

There have been times when I have done everything I could to avoid the hurt.  I have tried to buy my way out of it, redecorate it, medicate it, sleep it way, sweat it out, and just plain pretend that it wasn’t there.  But it is.  The truth is, I live with a hole in my heart. I think we all do.  It comes from past regrets, choices that we would give anything to take back, unexpected loss, wounds inflicted by others, and the shadowy glimpses of what is no longer possible.  Some days the other part of my heart, that part that is whole, and strong beats louder.  And other days,the sound gets sucked into that hole, and I follow it right down into the depths.  I’ve quit trying to hide from it, because it is all part of the heart that is mine.  Trying to have one without the other is like trying to separate the waves from the ocean.

I am absolutely not a poet.  Never have been, and most likely never will be.  But years ago, sitting in my college dorm room, lonely, homesick and heartbroken, the one and only poem I have ever written came spilling out.  It seems that even back then, at some level far, far below my consciousness, I understood that pain was important.  Here is what I wrote;

Pain and love go hand in hand

One often leading the other

But the led need not struggle against the leader

For they both travel to the same place

They go to the clear, bittersweet pool of human experience

Where each may drink freely from one cup

Having once looked into such waters

one will never again settle for the cloudy, shallow pools of comfort,

which do not reflect, but simply swallow the reflection

When you seek love

look also for pain

and welcome it

that you too may drink deeply.