Pain is only temporary. It can be perpetuated with a lingering of self doubt, or extinguished with a flow of understanding.
The other day, I perched at a local coffee shop to do some work. I had to gear down my typical pace of high energy, to a slower jaunt because of an injury. I kept getting distracted in my discomfort, though. Having torn muscles in your abdominal can really throw you off balance. At first, my unpitying self-denial allowed me to stupidly train through the injury. When I could no longer continue at the intensity that I was used to, It quickly turned to self-pity. I wanted to feel my normal self again, but this pain was eating up my mental calories, and continued to commandeer my focus. F@$#!
When I was done cursing in my thoughts, I sat back, pushed away my laptop, and tried to relax. With a deep breath, my eyes clumsily scanned the room. I observed an elderly woman in a wheel chair, gazing out the coffee shop window. She wore the stereotypical elderly attire with a button-up wool sweater, and a blanket over her lap. She watched as a funeral procession passed by, her expression unchanged. Her strong pale blue eyes followed the procession to the last car. A calmness about her eased me into a trance-like-state, where I sat with her in the moment. A realization that with life, pain is a certainty. There are different kinds of pain, but they have a commonality. Our pain is telling us something. The credible danger vs. credible safety analytics from evolution, or the big test before the great beyond. Whether it’s a torn muscle, or facing your mortality, pain has a presence in our lives. The elephant in the corporeal room. Like the Police calling you; It’s never a good thing. Pain never calls just to say hi. Instead, a reminder of our fragile, and limited experience in this life. The most powerful way to combat pain, and its comrade fear, is to first understand them. The emotions produced by pain can prove to come with great clarity, if we can change our vantage point.
Pain sharpens our focus, and can bring with it teachings beyond our surface sufferings. Recognizing this allows you to sit with the pain, not dismiss it, but utilize it as a force of motivation, and understanding, not for self destruction. This is to say, keeping our mindset on appreciation, and gratitude as we meander through our affliction.
Pain ultimately shapes us. It can sculpt us into something beautiful, or carve us into something ugly. Understanding one’s behaviour can give us insight into one’s pain. This truth is the same reversed. Pay note of those around you. Each has seen, or felt pain not unlike yourself, although varying in intensity, and circumstance. We are all connected through our pain, and can be brought together by it. Love can blossom through pain, if you water it with careful consideration.
In his acclaimed book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl, gives his professional, and personal, first-hand account of the horrors of living in Nazi death camps. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to further his, or her understanding of the difference between pain, and suffering. Frankl, eloquently states, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstances, to choose one’s own way”. Suffering, then, can be a choice. Therefore, pain, and its concomitant emotions do not possess the choice of how it will shape us. That is ours alone to make in the meaning we give to it.
Use your body, laugh, love and enjoy each day. Pain will come, but it most certainly will go.
“What is to give light must endure burning”.
- Viktor E. Frankl