This post is dedicated to my father who never lost the opportunity for a “teachable moment.”
I’m sure you’ve heard your local gym enthusiast utter the phrase, ” No Pain, No Gain.” I know I used to cringe when I heard this. And when I FINALLY decided to do something about my weight problem, I – on purpose – put myself in the hands of these masochistic people. I went to the gym, pumped iron as hard as I could and felt pain in muscles I didn’t even know existed. For well past the first week, I had to take Advil and Epson salt baths to deal with the intense physical pain I was feeling from working out. And if the pain subsided, my trainers would say, “You’re not working out hard enough! Come on! Let’s go!”
I knew the alternative – having gastric bypass surgery- would also be painful. It would also be much more costly. I’d go under the knife, and have to deal with the pain of recovery. I’d lose weight from not wanting to eat as much, sure. But I’d still have to go back into surgery to deal with the excessive skin folds left over on my body after I’d lost all that weight.
Pain – no matter which path I chose to take.
So, I had three choices. I did not want to stay stuck in a body that was obese and unhealthy. That would be painful in the long haul: medical bills, depression, anxiety, stress…
Therefore, I could either go to the gym and lift weights to sculpt my body, or face two surgeries in order to look halfway decent. Either way, pain was coming and it was something I’d have to deal with.
Pain is a reality in life. Telling children that pain is a dragon they may slay once and conquer is unrealistic. Pain is real and we all have to deal with it – at some point. Adults must learn to deal with the reality of pain. If they do not, how can they help the children around them be resilient to and fight the physical, mental and emotional pain that is an everyday fact of our lives.
Some of us choose not to deal with it. And let me just say, that’s cool. We all have our journey. I’ve had periods of my life where I just did not want to face the pain of change. It hurts. I get it!
But life has a way of bringing lessons back to you – to see if you’ve learned the lessons. You’ll hurt no matter what you do sometimes… reach out and the fella/gal might break your heart. Pull away and the sting of loneliness will set in.
The worst pain is emotional pain. When the guy you love pulls away and you feel yourself gutted by the fact that, yet again your worst fear may be coming true…you are unlovable. Damn! That smarts!
So, what do you do? Turn and run: play on your phone, watch videos, surf the web, smoke some pot, drink alcohol, plan a day trip, organize your house? (My house is very organized at this point – Thank you very much!) 🙂
How about this crazy thought… let yourself feel it.
Go ahead. Set the clock for five minutes and just let yourself feel the hurt. Cry like you did when you were three years old and no one could convince you to “calm down.” You just cut loose and let the tears flow.
I hope at some point, an adult came to you and sat next to you and said, ” It’s ok. Go ahead a cry. Just let it all out.” You probably melted into this adult’s arms and just sobbed. This went on for several minutes.
After you were spent, you came up for air and realized you didn’t hurt quite so badly. The pain was still present just not with the same amount of pressure.
Allowing yourself to really feel the pain takes a great amount of courage. And if you did not have a parent or adult come along to hold you and let you cry, you’ll need to reparent yourself a bit.
Reparenting yourself means that you give yourself what you needed your parents to give you. You imagine an adult or higher power is there holding the wounded three year old sobbing version of yourself. I know it sounds weird, but it helps. And there probably were times when one or both your parents were nurturing people to you. Imagine that version of your parent holding you as you cry for the feelings you are finally allowing yourself to express.
If you cannot remember a nurturing parent moment, a higher power can also help with the reparenting. This week’s Torah portion was Eikev from Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25. In this portion, the Israelites are reminded to maintain their faith and bond to God despite living among the idol-worshipping Canaanites. The Haftarah portion that occompanies this portion is from Isaiah. Isaiah was a prophet who reminded the Israelites during their long years of Babylonia exile to not give into feelings of despair.
God plays a very key role in my life. He is a constant companion. Sometimes I imagine the wings of God holding me close and this brings me comfort when I am afraid.
God has blessed me with two really wonderful parents. Don’t get me wrong, they made some mistakes along the way. But, I know for a fact that they loved me.
My father had his moments of being a very nurturing person. I remember when my he helped me get over the fear of thunder and lightening. I was a toddler and the sheer noise of the thunder made my ears ring. My head hurt from all the banging. And my eyes felt sliced open watching the the lighting streak through my bedroom window. I cried in the dark and I felt so alone.
“Prudy…” I heard his soft voice call out. “Are you OK?” All I could do was sniff and sob. He pulled back the covers and lifted me up into his warm shoulders. “What’s wrong?” he asked.
“I’m afraid of the noise and the light!” I said between sobs. He held me close for several minutes as I continued to cry. I think he knew I needed to just let it out. Then, with me still in his arms, he stood up.
I held on for dear life as we started walking toward the living room. He opened the front door of our house on Scott Street. The rain was pouring. The light was more intense and the thunder was deafening. “WHY are we out here?!” I thought!. It hurts more out here! Is he crazy!!!!!!!
We stood there for a long time.
And I cried.
My dad continued to hold me. He didn’t tell me I was wrong to cry. He was just present and held me so I felt safe.
All of a sudden, I realized, I wasn’t crying anymore.
I also realized I was no longer afraid of the noise and the light.
I looked out and watched the lightning streak across the sky. It was beautiful. And the sound that had hurt my ears so badly was now somehow so alluring. The sound made me feel safe. I’m not sure why. Maybe because the storm was moving away and the sound was muffled as it went away. All I know is, I was never afraid of thunder and lightening ever again. Even when it was close. I respected it’s power and it’s ability to destroy, but it’s hold over me was forever broken.
Perhaps it seems too simple: letting yourself FEEL the emotional pain instead of running from it helps one conquer it. Maybe not all at once. Maybe not in the spanse of a year. But inevitably. Pain will not allow you to walk away forever. The only way to gain power over emotional pain, is to face it – head on.
In the meantime, here’s a childhood memory for you. Remember your first reaction to thunder and lightning? Was it fear? Are you still afraid of it? Why not?