Someone left my life recently—someone I loved deeply.
It was abrupt, painful, and (the three-year-old in me keeps using this word) “unfair.”
Meanwhile, the Universe throws another handful of popcorn in its mouth and laughs over my use of that word.
“Silly human. ‘Fair’ is a false construct, and ‘unfair’ is a fundamental non-acceptance of ‘what is.’ You’ll get it eventually. Now, where’s my butter spray?”
Thanks, Universe. You can stop now, okay? I get it.
My relationship to pain has changed dramatically over the years.
I used to run from it. No, not just run, flee. Think: rats leaving a sinking ship, gazelles running from a cheetah, or the Road Runner from Coyote.
I did anything I could to avoid it, anything not to feel it.
I’d numb with jokes to make light of my pain. And listen, y’all, I love to laugh and humor is a key value of mine but when we’re using it to avoid processing a traumatic life event, well that’s no bueno.
I’d numb with wine, with food, more wine, or push my body through too many rounds of extreme workouts in a short period of time, partly to work off the wine and the carbs, but the real motivation was to be so completely exhausted I couldn’t feel my feelings.
That approach works in the short term, but it’s just a coping mechanism. It’s treating symptoms, not the underlying cause—which means that sh*t is going to show up again and again in our lives, a little bit louder and a little bit worse, each time.
The longer we go without addressing our pain, the more it will show up in our lives and relationships as repeating patterns. Eventually that pain gets so intense, we’re forced to deal because our quality of life begins to suffer dramatically.
The analogy I often give my life coaching clients is based on my own experience with running. Many years ago, I did a lot of distance running and in the process, sustained several injuries. The human body is astonishingly intelligent and forms scar tissue to immobilize a damaged area and prevent further injury. All well and good in the short-term, but not a long-term solution.
Worse yet, if not properly treated at the time of injury, scar tissue hardens and causes all manner of other not-so-fun side effects that can impact our quality of life someday. Scar tissue is also more sensitive to pain than normal tissue, so the longer we wait, the harder it gets and the more painful it’s going to be when we do break it apart. (It’s true—I’ll wait while you Google it. See? Told you. Where’s the trust, man?)
Here’s my point: The longer we wait to address pain, the worse it will get.
We can’t run from pain forever. Oh, we try—a pint of ice cream, a bottle of wine, a pill, a new job, a new lover, a new home, a new city, a new country. All short-term fixes. Keep running, and we prolong the inevitable, delay the healing process, and invite more pain into our lives. The scar tissue will still be there, under the surface.
I don’t run anymore.
Glennon Doyle said it best:
“Pain is a traveling professor. Pain knocks and the wise say: Come in—sit with me. Teach me what I must know.”
Instead of running, numbing, avoiding, denying, bypassing—take a deep breath and turn to face it.
There is no way out but straight through the eye of the storm. Let your pain, and all it brings with it, wash over you. Take such sweet care of yourself and your heart during the process.
Give yourself permission to wallow for a day or two (where my “Gilmore Girls” fans at?), to journal everything that comes up for you. Let yourself feel the heartbreak, the loss, the range of emotions. Clear the mechanism, so your scar tissue doesn’t harden. Heal the cause and the symptoms will disappear.
Honor your pain. Then ask your pain:
“What is my lesson?”
Let it teach you. Learn what you need to know. And that same storm will never come again.