Pain happens. Pain knocks at our doors, barges into our homes and smacks us hard. It hits us in the heart, in the head, in the gut, and then it kicks us when we’re already down.
Pain is a heartless bastard and we’ve all had enough, haven’t we?
Honestly? The answer to that is ‘no’.
No, we haven’t had enough pain.
We haven’t endured enough because we are alive and breathing. Our hearts are still beating, the blood is still pumping through our veins and we have so much more to learn.
Pain is not our enemy. Pain is, perhaps, one of our greatest teachers. We need to stop running.
Have you ever met someone who was really wrapped in cotton wool as a child? Never allowed to ride a bike, climb a tree, try roller skating, just in case they got hurt? And have you ever met anyone more afraid?
See, this is the thing about pain… the more we run from it, the more afraid we become. The FEAR of pain is very often far worse than the pain itself.
Whether we’re talking about physical pain, emotional pain, psychological pain, the rule remains. The more we run from pain, the harder pain will chase; the more we fear pain, the more we’ll cripple ourselves with the pain of fear – it’s a vicious cycle.
We have all lost someone dear to us. At some level, we have all grieved. Some of us will have been in a pit so dark and deep we wondered if we’d ever see another sunrise, and yet, here we are.
We have all experienced physical pain of some kind and yet, here we are, reading this column right now.
Many of us have been through all kinds of emotional or psychological trauma. We’ve been through the wringer, each and every one of us. And yet, here we are.
Realise how far you’ve come, right now. Understand that you so far have a 100% success rate when it comes to surviving really challenging times – including all the pain wrapped up with them. You’re here, right now, in this moment. You made it.
Take that a step further. What did you learn through those painful times? Who were you before? Who did you become? Who might you become tomorrow, or the day after that, or next year, or in the next decade?
Who would you be without pain?
Pain happens. There’s the pain we cannot avoid – the kind of pain it’s ridiculous to even try to avoid – the kind of pain that breaks us down, then builds us up into version 2.1 and brings us back with more clarity and a bigger view of the world. And then there’s the pain we create ourselves.
You know, much of the pain we create for ourselves comes from wanting things to adapt to our ideals – the sheer, self-defeating simplicity of wishing things were different.
Much of the discomfort we feel is because situations, people, places don’t live up to our own expectations. We trick ourselves into believing we’d be happy “if only…”. That kind of thinking fills us with pain. We fill the space meant for happiness with misery, and then we tend it and encourage it to grow with our misguided thinking.
Happiness doesn’t come from the outside. Happiness comes from the inside. The irony is that we can create exactly that same scenario with pain. All too often, we grow our own, from the inside out, and we *still* try to blame external influences.
Ladies and gentlepeople, you can run all you like from this kind of pain, but you cannot outrun something that’s growing inside you – especially if you planted it yourself!
Whatever kind of pain you have faced in your life up to now, I want you to stop for a moment, breathe deep, and ask yourself what that pain taught you.
If you can, I want you to dump your anger and frustration at the unfairness in life for a moment and ask how that situation changed you. If you’ve been running and resisting up to now, you might even ask how you might learn, grow and develop IF you allowed yourself to dig for the teachings.
Am I telling you to just roll over and be a victim here? No, of course not. This not so much about sacrifice as surrender. Pain – in all its guises – is one of the unavoidable consequences of life and sometimes it’s easier – and smarter – to roll with the punches than to either rigidly dig our heels in or attempt to escape it.
Years ago, when I felt the pain of life to be too much, I tried to escape. I tried very hard to die and ended up breaking my back in three places. Somehow I found the strength to get through that and keep going until the next big hit came.
When I went through my breakdown, it was partly because I’d been running from my past instead of facing it, embracing it and learning from my experiences. That was when I truly learned the value of surrender over sprint, and it was how I learned that pain, in reality, can be an ally.
That breakdown truly was my making. The breakDOWN was my breakTHROUGH, precisely because I was able to surrender and stop running. Learning from that pain, going through it, finding the teachings, however difficult, allowed me to rebuild into my true self, without all those masks, without all those learned layers of BS, without all the bravado and pretending everything was okay.
I would not be the Taz you see today if I had not been broken down to my barest level. I would not have achieved all I have or been able to help, inspire or support so many people were it not for the power of pain.
It’s really hard to put these words down onto the screen without sounding like some kind of twisted, gung-ho pain addict but, I promise, that’s not what it’s about. I don’t have some secret dungeon full of torture toys, I don’t self-flagellate, I don’t cut up or run full pelt at brick walls and I don’t spend my weekends watching Kramer Vs Kramer, Marley and Me and Old Yeller either. It’s not about seeking out pain… it’s about recognising that pain is part of life and, if we stop running, face it and seek out the gifts within, we might actually find something worthwhile. Perhaps, even, something beautiful.
I want to share someone else’s words now – someone whose prose is far more eloquent than mine. I want to share some words from Pema Chodron.
I have long admired and respected Pema Chodron’s work and was reminded of this excerpt by a friend who has just been through – is going through – a situation more painful and challenging than I had ever imagined she may face.
My friend is moving through this time with grace, with dignity and an understanding that through pain comes great learning and growth. It speaks volumes that this wonderful woman was the one to share this verse. I hope Pema’s words penetrate and leave you with a greater, deeper understanding of the importance of pain:
“Let the hard things in life break you. Let them affect you. Let them change you. Let those hard moments inform you. Let this pain be your teacher. The experiences of your life are trying to tell you something about yourself. Don’t cop out on that. Don’t run away and hide under your covers. Lean into it.
“What is the lesson in the wind? What is the storm trying to tell you? What will you learn if you face it with courage? With full honesty and – lean into it.”
Until next time,