"The Cure for the Pain is in the Pain"
"The Cure for the Pain is in the Pain."
That's a famous Rumi quote. I know because I thought I made it up, but it was too good, so I Googled it.
<One of these days I'm going to say something quotable. You just mark my words.>
It all started because I didn't have a blog for today, and I was really hungry. So hungry, that it hurt. Not news.
The news was that I had a fleeting moment where I wondered if the pain would ever stop, and if I could survive like that.
<my thought process when I write is disappointingly shallow.>
It got me thinking: What if we're looking at pain all wrong? What if pain isn't the thing that's the matter? I mean, pain is just the Bat Signal to our brain telling us that we have a cut, or a bruise, or a...something...that has happened, right? But the pain itself isn't the issue.
When you have a heartache, it hurts. But maybe the hurt is the symptom of the worry that you'll end up alone. When you have a fear of heart attacks, you feel chest tightness (due to the stress response) which is a very real pain. What's the real fear, though? Are you really afraid a heart attack, or is it something else? It was for me.
There's something so grounding about pain....sometimes. When you step on a Lego (a completely universal pain, and also, the newest form of torture at GitMo), you are so present it's unreal. Like everything else in life, it's the crap we add into the pain that's the problem.
Should I be feeling this pain when I step on the Lego? Why would they leave it there for me to step on? They did it on purpose because they hate me. I don't deserve to feel anything else than this pain because I'm a bad person. Will this pain go away? What if it means I have cancer? What if someone saw that I stepped on a Lego? Will I not get promoted because I can't avoid Legos? No one understands the pain of stepping on a Lego. I'm so alone.
It's a whole thing.
Don't tell me literally all of these thoughts didn't go through your head the last time you went through a breakup. Or didn't get into that college program you were banking on. Or the part in the play you were totally edgy enough for. Or were demoted at work. Or the last time your husband/wife/girlfriend/casual Craigslist encounter was weird that one night. Or after you felt oddly vulnerable after having an IUD put in. Or when you ate an entire DeFazio's pepperoni pizza alone. Or when you started a new weight loss regime. Orrrrrr when you were anxious AF and couldn't leave your bedroom, again, for all the reasons you can't explain.
We've all had those thoughts. In that, you most definitely are not alone.
Rumi's point...I think, because I'm impossibly bad at all things poetry...is that if you can get through the pain, you can do anything (yay!). But until you get through the pain, you can't do a damn thing (sad face emoji).
I won't insult us all by saying cliche things like how the pain is teaching us how to slow down and take care of ourselves, because we know that, and we won't do it anyway no matter how I write it. But what I will remind us of is that pain is important because when we really sit with it, it can show us exactly who we are. The cool thing is that you're tougher than you think. It's science. You're hardwired to be a tough ol' Broad, trust me.
So, like, how? How does one sit with this crap?
I'm glad you asked.
Let me know if you find out.
Actually, I made the glorious "mistake" of having too much prosecco and chardonnay as a chaser to the straight carb dinner of pasta puttanesca and garlic bread I made tonight for my friend and me....so tomorrow I'll be practicing all of this with my literal and figurative hangovers.
I know some things about pain from experience. But more importantly (and accurately), I've watched the people in my life that I love and respect the most do something with their pain: they practice.
Its the practice of listening to it...of acknowledging it...of thanking it (maybe)...then moving on. And that practice isn't glamorous.
Sometimes it's messy, and there's a lot of mascara on your cheeks. Sometimes you wake up feeling like you could run the world. Sometimes we wake up uninspired and hopeless. There's often not a happy medium...pun-like emphasis on happy. It can feel like you can't quite get it together, and it can feel like failure to allow pain to wash over you. The trick to remember is that pain isn't always a truth teller. Sometimes it just sort of points an Eat At Joe's neon arrow toward where we need to focus our work. Sometimes we need a bandaid. Sometimes that bandaid is mini canolis and a bowl of pasta, but often, and more sustainably, the bandaid is a quiet space, and some kind words to ourselves while we sit still and listen to what the pain wants.
Sometimes we think we won't be able to handle the pain, so we look for the numbing salve. I so get that. Bad news though, it makes the pain feel that much bigger when the numb wears off. It's ok. Don't beat yourself up. As long as you keep showing up every day, I would say that it's all been practice for tomorrow.
And that's the cure I guess. Practice. Just give being with the pain a shot. Try figuring out what it's really pointing to, and get to work.
At the very least, have some pasta.