BREATHE IN THE PAIN
By: Lauren Anderson
There was a significant period in my life when I couldn’t love or be loved by anyone.
It wasn’t a particularly sad or lonely time, because I didn’t even know I was in it. I couldn’t feel anything. Not like that anyway. I had shut it down completely. So I just went about my life, dotting “i”s and crossing “t”s. And so on and so forth.
Then I woke up. It was a crush that kind of knocked me out of my stupor and shook me up. It was like being hit by lighting. I felt light again. Happy, silly, free. Hopeful. Could it be? Could I really?
And then the crush didn’t pan out. I was devastated. In my devastation I mourned the loss of that old armor. The one that kept me “safe” and unfeeling. Back where it was easy and I was protected.
But I had learned something so so crucial. Even though it was “easier” there, I discovered I missed the feeling of well, FEELING. And I knew I didn’t ever want to go back to that unfeeling, closed off, place ever again. I wanted to stay out in the open where potential lives. Where hope gets oxygen and the next great thing can actually reach me.
Even though I knew “out in the open” was where I wanted to be, I couldn’t deny the pain that I was feeling. I was in pain. And I HATED IT.
Cause pain– of any kind– sucks. Right?
But my best friend said something to me that I’ll never forget. I was lamenting to her about how hurt I felt, and how I resented the pain I was experiencing when I didn’t even have anything real to show for it. It was just a crush after all.
And she goes, “You know what that pain tells me? Is that you are still capable of experiencing deep and authentic love. And that is something wonderful. Not everyone feels love like that.”
My tears stopped. And I knew she was right. My pain was a gift. Because it showed me that I was still capable of love. Something I thought I had lost. Something I thought was gone.
My pain showed me the strength of my desire. And helped guide me toward the next thing.
And even though pain is a shitty way to make this discovery– I’d be lying if I said my best lessons weren’t also my hardest lessons. And what made them hard was the PAIN experienced.
So why am I talking about this right now? And what does PAIN have to do with anything?
Well, I am experiencing pain in my body right now from my injury (When I fell down the steps and bruised my coccyx!) that is new and frustrating and isn’t leaving as quickly or easily as I hoped it would. And it sucks and it’s making me feel depressed. And immobile.
And in my pain, I have been craving a reframe. I need a way to think about my pain that doesn’t make me resentful and shitty to be around. So what’s the reframe when it comes to physical pain?
My heartache taught me that I am still capable of loving deeply. But what about my backache? WTF is that supposed to teach?!?!?
And then, as if by magic, I was watching a War documentary for Veterans Day, about a vet that lost her leg from an explosive in Iraq. It was so crucial to hear what she thought about pain.
She says, “Breathe in the pain. Because the pain tells you how strong you are. Never deny it. Breathe it in and let it show you what you’re made of.”
And it got me thinking… she is right. By allowing my pain in, it shows me the strength of what I can endure. And again, just like that crush did, it shows me the depth of my desire to move my body and work out and run and dance and LIVE.
This kind of endurance I talk about with my friends who experience chronic pain. They have very symbiotic relationships with their bodies, and never take them for granted because they can’t! Their illnesses have taught them to really listen to what their body needs and act accordingly.
They know pain is inevitable, and they use it as a guide to let them know what they REALLY WANT. Some things might be worth it, and others are not.
It’s like the pain is CLARITY about desire.
Same thing goes when we experience the pain of jealousy, or defeat in a baseball game, or whatever it may be. The pain is directly associated to our desire to have/achieve/be a certain way.
Pain is a window into our desire. And I know we don’t go around talking like this very often. About pain and desire and what not. I mean, we’re not 17th century wartime poets. But the link between the two is really interesting to me.
Even on a fundamental biological level. We experience pain, because our bodies are letting us know something is off/ wrong/ injured. And the pain signifies a DESIRE for your body to fix it.
And by breathing in the pain, it reminds me that I have desire to move my body again. And the pain is crucial in that process.
Pain is crucial. I should not deny it. Regardless of where it shows up. In my heart or in my back.
Easier said than done to be sure, but exactly the reframe I was craving.
I will breathe it in, and let it teach me about what I really want.
I will use it to show me the depth of my desire.