I know I haven’t learned all that pain is here to teach me, but I have learned a few things. And, one of the most important of those things I’ve learned is that:
There is more to pain than hurting.
I didn’t know this for a very, very long time. In fact, for all of time until recently. I didn’t know because the hurting part of pain has always had a way of stopping me in my tracks. The hurting part of pain triggered self-induced paralysis, so that I would feel the hurt, and immediately shut down. I would cry out to the hurt: Stop it! I would say to myself: I can’t take anymore.
And so began this circular and not terribly productive process:
I try to numb pain. I try to hide pain. I try to hide myself from pain.
I did that, and sometimes still do that, because the hurting part of pain scared me. A small hurt can become a powerful hurt when you add even a dab of fear to it. Since I have always had an open-access pipeline to full-fledged fear at my fingertips, I could really pile it on. Add it in. And, make the hurting part the only thing I could feel or see or taste or touch or believe in.
So, I didn’t know that the hurting part of pain is only the first part, just one part, only one piece among many pieces. I thought that hurting was THE POINT of pain.
But, friends, believe me. There is more.
This Spring, pain moved in on me fast and heavy. It wrapped its arms around me, and before I could even put my arms up to try to stop it or resist it or run away, it was all around me. In my body, in my head, curled around my heart. So, I gave in. I dropped in. I felt the hurting part of pain first, and instead of pushing it away, I touched it gently and said, “Okay.”
And, after being inside that hurting part for several days, I felt something change. The intensity turned down, and pain stopped simply hurting. Something new began to make its way through me, and this new thing was a part of my pain. In fact, my pain started to look, feel and sound like something else entirely. Pain, in my body, said a brand new thing that I had never heard it say before:
I am here to help.
Oh, friends. This is where it gets interesting, because what I know now about pain is that it most certainly is NOT just about being hurt. Pain is also about healing. Pain is about the truth. Pain is the things I have been carrying. Pain is the fear I’ve been harboring. Pain is the story I’ve been clinging to. Pain, as it turns out, doesn’t let go until we do. Pain doesn’t stop on command. Pain has a message, and it is a relentless messenger. It won’t leave until we let it in. It won’t move on until we move through it. It didn’t come here to simply hurt. It came to heal wounds.
Pain is also trying to help.
This is a really important distinction to make, because often, when we talk about healing, we think it’s a feel good process. We think it’s ONLY relief. We think the relief and feeling better parts are the only parts about healing. And, what we miss is that healing hurts. Pain heals. This is a partnership, a package deal. Nobody gets to have only the good times healing, and we can’t remove the hurting part from pain. In fact, maybe nothing is the way we thought it was. Maybe that’s the point. After all.
Pain has been revealing to me over and over and over again (can I get a witness on the way pain will NAG like a BOSS) that what hurts is what needs healing, and what needs healing is painful. It hurts. My pain is NOT my problem. The things I am carrying are my problem. The things I’m holding onto that are no longer serving me are my problem. The places that remain jagged and braced for the worse and afraid to hurt are my problem. Pain is just the messenger. Pain came here to reveal. Pain came to teach, and pain came to help me heal.
So, from here on out, I am going a new way with my pain. And, that way is to trust it’s message rather than to fear it. This new way I’m on scares me, but I finally know that it’s the right way. This way means that I welcome my pain inside, I pour it a cool glass of water and then, with shakiness and with certainty (isn’t it funny how those two so often go together?), I choose to be its student. I ask it to tell me all it knows.
I believe that pain is here to help me heal. I understand that the healing I am up to hurts. For now. There is more to learn, more work to do, but I am not in the position to lead it or teach it. It won’t help if I shut down, numb out or close off. The only sane choice, the way I finally see it, is to let it in. Be a student. Allow the answers. Hurt if it hurts, and then, heal.
There is more to pain than hurting. I promise.