Musings & Inspiration: Pain, the Reality and the Illusion
Everyone has experienced pain in their life at some point. Maybe you don't remember when you were a baby and crying your eyes out because you were hungry, tired or just needed some love, but that probably happened.
Learning to crawl, walk, run and all of those other basic tasks surely provided a few scraped knees for most toddlers out there, and likely a few tears as well.
For some however, it may have been much worse. For example, one of my best friends was born with a disabling condition that required her to have multiple surgeries throughout her youth. Not only was each surgery itself quite painful, the recovery process, and even the isolation of feeling different, and like a burden to her parents was so much for a young girl to cope with. Yet she made it through all of those difficult and painful times, often times being her own source of strength and determination.
Years later, a grown woman, she still has to occasionally cope with the pain and inconvenience of living with screws in her feet, scarred tissue throughout her body and certainly weakened emotional fabric. Due to this, she can't enjoy a long yet leisurely stroll with a friend, and sometimes the simplest of tasks that most people take for granted can be quite challenging. Yet to meet her on a good day, one where she has had enough rest, and satisfaction in other areas of her life, you would think she hasn't a care in the world, and is just happily skipping through life. On the surface, this incredible woman is strength, joy and compassion to most everyone she encounters, despite her circumstances.
“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
For others, the pain in their lives is much more subdued and hidden on deeper emotional levels. There are those who have experienced various types of abuse or neglect but have worked through their pain with therapy or medication. Others, typically living on the streets have more obvious signs of pain or discomfort. How do they cope? What is their source of relief to sleep at night and wake up another day to face it all over again?
What about the countless caretakers out there? There are so many strong and compassionate beings out there that care for people with chronic pain, elderly, children, or others. These caregivers also experience their own unique pain by just being on duty at all times and spending all of their energy comforting their loved ones. Yet on either side of the pain, they all have found their own unique coping mechanisms to allow them to get through the good times and the bad.
Personally, I believe after my divorce many years ago that I may have suffered from an acute case of trust issues. I mean, I've been in a few relationships with guys who appear be suffering from trust issues as well, but I digress. And after many years of dating, relationships, being single, not to mention therapy (rinse and repeat...), I'm over it, the fear that is. I go "all in" with someone that I like, throwing caution and fear to the wind. This isn't for everyone, as most humans are so afraid of the hurt... "what happens if they don't care, what happens if they don't love me back?" Isn't that a rather selfish notion?
If you go into any situation with fear, you can't possibly enjoy the whole experience of it, be it a career, a friendship, relationship, hobby, having a pet, you won't be capable of fully understanding the joy and pain of the experience. What is joy if you've never experienced pain? Perhaps my perspective is the minority because I've lost a child. I don't know a greater pain. After such a loss, quite honestly, losing a friend, a romantic partner, a job, whatever, is comparatively like a getting a scrape on the knee, it may hurt for a minute, then it heals, and more than likely doesn't even leave a scar.
So my philosophy now is to live and love as fearlessly as possible. I'd rather be open to the beauty of the experience of giving my love and fully feeling the experience rather than cower in fear and the possibility of getting hurt or experiencing loss. The pain of love is exquisite, as there is so much learning that comes from it. And the joy of love is the most delicious thing in life, it gives energy to the human spirit and makes us feel truly alive.
“Pain is subtle. He has cold grey fingers. His voice is horse from crying & screaming... When people try to avoid him, he follows them silently & turns up as the bartender, or the bus driver... Pain has an elaborate filing system for keeping track of everyone... Pain respects people who are willing to take risks. If you... face him directly, he will give you a special ointment so your wounds don't fester.” ― J. Ruth Gendler, The Book of Qualities
There are many good quotes about never knowing what kind of pain someone may be experiencing, and to just be more compassionate as you may end up even saving a life with your kindness. So remember that the next time you are angry with the cranky barista or upset that some idiot cut you off in traffic, perhaps their pain drives them to this type of intolerable behavior.
Perhaps if we all had a little more compassion for others experiencing pain on any level, and when we choose to practice love and kindness, we may all experience just a little more joy every day.
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