“The cure for pain is in the pain.” ~ Rumi
My daughter walked nervously over some large rocks that made up the beach on our Sunday hike.
I remember feeling surprised that she looked back at me for reassurance and actually reached out her hand for mine as she maneuvered her way across the rocky beach. This is the girl who has no fear; this is the girl who trusts the earth around her at all times.
But something happened earlier in the week that made me realize why she was checking in with me to make sure everything was okay.
I can say with complete confidence that I am a helicopter parent.
I like the idea of my daughter learning on her own, but when push comes to shove, if there is an obstacle in her way, I’m going to get rid of it; if there is someone who is being unkind to her, I’m going to take care of it. It’s just who I am. I am a protective mama.
But there were two moments in the last week in which I was not able to save her from pain.
We were camping on a coastal island where she went hiking with some family members. As they were approaching a steep, rocky hill, they told her to slow down, and in the true strong spirit that she holds (where no pain has been felt) she ran down the rocky hill and ended up with two bloody knees.
I was texted immediately and came running to meet her in the path. I noticed after that incident had taken place that she was much more careful in the way she took steps along other paths on the island.
Then two days later, we arrived at my sister’s house from a long day of travel, and I quickly went to use the bathroom. I had no sooner put my bag down when I heard a loud, boom, boom, boom! The proverbial clock stopped as my brain tried to process what that sound could possibly be. As soon as I realized what it was, which happened in about .001 seconds, I ran to the stairs to help my daughter.
I feared the worst. I knew she had stumbled and was falling down the stairs she had walked down a thousand times before.
I turned into the stairwell and saw her bumping down towards me with the most frightened look on her face. I caught her before she could hit the next stair and pulled her into my arms. She grabbed onto me with tears in her eyes and a sob I rarely heard from this tough little girl.
I silently recalled those two painful moments as she glanced into my eyes and reached for me to help her across the rocky beach. She had felt physical pain, and as a result she was being more careful than she normally would have been in this new environment.
But here’s the thing: It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing that she was feeling afraid.
There were some real obstacles on that beach that I was glad she was more aware of. in a way, the pain she had experienced was fostering wisdom in her young soul. Watching my daughter on those rocks caused me to reflect on how pain, if interpreted correctly, can actually be a gift in our lives:
Pain can be a teacher to help shape us to fulfill our purpose on this earth.
There is something beautiful that happens to people when they have gone through great pain and then come out on the other side. There is a tenderness, a compassion and a greater sense of humanity in people who have trudged through the cesspool of a painful life and emerged still standing on the other side.
It is all too easy to look at choices as being “right” or “wrong” based on how much pain they deliver, but if we can see the lesson in the pain, then we can see the purpose of it too. I love how Glennon Doyle Melton, a well known mama-author, describes the gift that pain can bring us:
“Pain is not a sign that you’ve taken a wrong turn or that you’ve done your life wrong. It’s not a signal that you need a different life or partner or body or home or personality. Pain is not a hot potato to pass on to the next person or generation. Pain is not a mistake to fix. Pain is just a sign that a lesson is coming. Discomfort is purposeful: it is there to teach you what you need to know so that you can become who you were meant to be.” ~ Momastery
Persistent, relational pain can help you understand that it is time to move on.
I am all for trying to see things through someone elses eyes, and trying to “work things out,” but there comes a time—after one has spent a reasonable amount of effort trying to have healthy relationships—when all those efforts become in vain and it is time to move on. I have had friendships like this where I just said quietly (or out loud), “I love you. I respect you. But this relationship is not serving me or you anymore.”
Sometimes it takes pain to bring about that realization that the season of certain relationships may have come to a close.
Physical pain is your body’s way of saying that something needs to change.
I apologize if this is too much information, but last year I had a terrible toothache—a “keep you up at night” awful toothache. I decided to wait until my insurance would cover it to get it fixed, and when I did, I found out that my tooth was severely infected and needed a root canal. I should have paid attention and acknowledged the pain long before I did. The pain was an indicator that things were not healthy.
Sometimes pain can help us see that there are areas in our body that need special attention.
Emotional Pain is a sign that things may be off balance in our life.
I woke up this morning and I just felt a little “off.” I felt a little “down.” I have such a rich life—for which I daily practice gratitude—that the feeling actually shocked me. I went into the bathroom, looked at myself in the mirror and said, “What’s going on?” As I looked into my own eyes for several seconds, I knew exactly what it was: I was feeling stress as a result of things I needed to get to done, and I hadn’t spent a lot of time with friends and people I cared for lately. I was feeling a little empty.
After contemplating the source of my pain, I made a game plan to attend to the needs that I had and “fill myself up.” Once I discovered the root of the pain, I could make an action plan to bring more balance into my life.
We live in a world where we are constantly seeking ways to avoid pain, but sometimes—just sometimes—the gift is in the pain. It calls out to us like a beacon in the night, beckoning us to listen to its message of wisdom.
Author: Wendy Haley
Editor: Toby Israel
Photo: Flickr/Jesse Millan