One of the most profound phrases that I’ve heard in my life came from the lips of someone I deeply admire. As I wiped my tears, he said, “stay the course and find the gift in your pain.” That phrase has haunted me ever since.
They say that human conditioning is to seek pleasure and avoid pain. So how is that one can find a gift in pain? A gift is something associated with pleasure. Pleasure is something absent of pain. Yet, this is what the Universe was asking of me. I was being tested to overcome great grief to transcend to the other side of true bliss.
Have you ever faced adversity, tragic situations, loss of a loved one, heartbreak, betrayal? Have you ever experienced financial distress? I think the answer would be YES!
We all know stories of incredible trial and triumph. Those who, in spite of horrific experiences, come out on the other side with a deeper insight and gratitude for their lives. I do not have to go too far. People in my own family survived the Holocaust. My family could choose to live with anger at the world. Instead, they have managed to create beautiful, productive and fulfilling lives. I can think of many others. Among them, one of my favorites: Viktor Frankl and his life story in his book, A Man’s Search for Meaning.
But when the hurting is happening to us, you lose perspective.
You act as if you are the only one who has experienced betrayal, heartbreak, loss, and the list goes on. Reality is, you are not the first, nor will you be the last to feel pain in your life. Viktor Frankl says, “If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death”.
So I asked myself, “What could the meaning of my suffering be?”
There is a dichotomy when it comes to the way you think about pain. You hate to feel pain, but when it hits you, you often make it a permanent part of your life. Instead of letting the pain go, you attach to the suffering and stay stuck in the pain. Could it be that the pain in your life makes you feel more alive than joy? Perhaps pain attracts more sympathy than happiness.
What you need to learn is to embrace the pain and learn from it. No matter what you are going through, you retained the freedom to choose how you respond to your suffering.
So here I was grieving, crying and feeling sorry for myself. I had stayed in a situation that was not healthy for my life, yet I stayed because avoiding that pain was a stronger emotion than facing it. The truth is that I was too scared to feel pain. I was too scared to feel the absence of not having ‘that someone’ next to me. What I did not realize was that I was already facing the pain that came as a daily dose of poison. At first, you are unaware of it. It comes camouflaged with little lies and lack of affection. The doses increased with indiscretions and lack of safety.
Yes, I did not want to face the intoxicating pain that would later leave me breathless and lifeless, consumed by the empty hole in the pit of my stomach. You know what I am talking about don’t you? You have felt it also. I tried to postpone the inevitable. I suffered a death by a thousand cuts as Esther Perel nicely said it. I chose to avoid the ultimate death and instead, I settled for a daily and slow death nonetheless.
Sadly, it is through our painful experiences that we learn the most about our inner strength. It is through our pain that we reveal to ourselves who we are at the core.
I asked myself, “What would have happened if I had not been so afraid of the pain?”
“What if I had looked at pain through a different set of lenses, a different perspective?”
“Would I have stayed to stuffer for so long or would I have entered the storm and be done with it?”
If I had known then what I know today, my life would have taken a different turn. Instead, I died daily for a period of three years, each day my daily poison stripped me of my courage and strength.
What can you do?
You can learn to embrace your pain by seeing it for what it is or you can get stuck on the pain. Remember what Buddha said, “Pain is an inevitable part of life. Suffering is optional.
The way I see it, I had two choices: Let my painful circumstance take away my will-power and give up, or I could fight to find some way to dig myself out of the hole that I was in.
I felt that the Universe was asking me to accept responsibility for what was happening. Of course, I did not create this pain. I also did not deserve what was happening to me. Yes, I could have continued to play the victim. I did that very well! Instead, I opted to take responsibility for what was happening to me and tried to look for the gift in this pain.”
Things happen for a reason, remember? So there had to be some meaning to be drawn from all this hurting. I made it my mission to get up from my depressed state. I forced myself out of bed after days of just lying in it and said to myself, “get up and find the lesson in all this.”
By accepting responsibility for my pain, I learned that I am strong. I thought for a long time that I was weak. I had relinquished my power, and I had forgotten who I was.
When you are in pain, it is too easy to forget what you have and focus only on what you lack. Getting out of this mindset is not easy either. You will hear people tell you, “This will pass.” “You will be fine again,” “Forget about it and move on,” “There are worse things in life. Get over it,” and the list goes on.
Intuitively you know they are correct, but what gives these people the right to minimize our pain? The truth is, nobody knows how we feel because we all experience pain and joy in unique ways. So I will not tell you to get over your pain or that you need to let it go and move on. Only you can arrive at that determination yourself.
But what I can tell you is this: The minute you choose to see your pain for what it is, without attachment, the meaning for that pain will shift. There is a freedom that comes from embracing pain. I am a living testimony of it. My liberation? It came when I allowed myself to finally embrace the pain. I stopped fighting the pain. I allowed the pain to penetrate every part of my soul. That’s when I realized I was so much more than my thoughts and my suffering. I HAD THE POWER TO CHOOSE how I was going to continue to react to it!
It was not easy; I will not lie to you.
It requires fortitude.
It would have been easier for me to keep the self-inflicting pain, staying the victim who questioned only the why of things. “Why is this happening to me?” became the echo in my life.
But I chose to be the brave. I changed my perspective towards my circumstance. I chose to believe that things did not happen TO ME, they happen FOR ME.
I choose to believe that the Universe was my friend and it was colluding to help me achieve all my dreams. When you have this mindset, you’re going to look for the lessons in everything that you encounter, good or bad. I began to think the Universe was here to support and protect me. As a result, I looked at my pain as something happening FOR ME to learn a valuable lesson, a lesson placed there by the Universe, not to hurt me, but to propel me closer to my true destiny.
Thankfully my pain gifted me with the ability to rediscover myself. I began to get up early and force myself out of bed. I went to the gym even though I did not want to. I decided to read. I read some amazing books that inspired my soul. I started to write again. I began to think of the things I had in my life that were amazing.
What is the first step? You make a decision. In that very instance, you choose to change your perspective; it’s when it happens. I shifted all my energy from the fear and anger I was in and focused on LOVE and GRATITUDE. I began to breathe deeply and opened myself to appreciate the things I had and focused less on the ones that I was lacking. The moment I allowed myself to feel the pain I was in, without shame, was the moment I began to heal.
I would like to correct Freud. The real aim of human existence is not to secure pleasure and avoid pain. The real aim of human existence to me is to find MEANING in our lives. So find your reason for living. It has to be something that is bigger than yourself. It cannot be your lover, your material possessions nor your ego-driven goals. Find something that makes you want to get up in the mornings. Something that makes your life here on earth worth living.
For me, it’s being the best mother I can be for my beautiful girls. They are my number one reason for living. They are my ‘why’ to endure any ‘how.’
The second is being able to uplift others through my writing. I derive meaning from being of service to you by sharing my truth, hoping that my experiences help you find some perspective on your own lives.
Learn to live a life of purpose. Live from a place of gratitude. If you do that, nothing will defeat you. If a person comes and leaves, well it was never meant to be permanent in your life. You will be strong to face the setbacks and circumstances that come. You will learn and grow each time from your pain as you search for the gifted lessons it brings. You will most likely continue to experience pain, but you will not get stuck in the suffering because your perspective would be different.
In facing my pain, I learned that I am more than just my thoughts and circumstances. I am not defined by the ‘one who loves me’ anymore, nor by what others think of me. I learned that I could overcome pain and not attach meaning to it, other than the lesson it brings with it. I learned that I can endure and that in truth, all things pass.
The biggest blessing in my life was not being afraid to face the pain. It was this pain that allowed me to break from the inside so that the light could get through. It was in this pain that I evolved as a person. If it had not been for this pain, I would not have realized how strong I truly am.
Showing gratitude for my painful circumstances led me to appreciate all that is good in my life. One cannot appreciate the light unless you have seen darkness. One cannot appreciate joy without experiencing sorrow, health without fallen to illness, love without the feeling of loss, abundance without lack, a rainbow cannot form without rain.
Start today. Don’t wait a single second longer. Embrace whatever pain you are going through at this very moment. Close your eyes. Sit still in silence and just let the pain go right through you. Don’t try to control it. Give yourself to it and just let it consume you. Face it head on and don’t judge it. It is there for a reason. It is in this pain that your humanity is reclaimed.
There is something beautiful in knowing that we feel pain because it means we are ALIVE! It gives you a clear connection to being intensely human. The pain is there to remind you that you can hurt, cry, love and laugh all at the same time. That my friends is called HAVING A HUMAN EXPERIENCE!
I loved Glennon Doyle Melton when she said: “feeling the pain is learning to keep your heart open while it breaks.” It is only when you face your pain head-on and work through it, that you find true freedom.
As for me now?
No person that comes in or out of my life will ever break me. I exist for so much more than my circumstances. I know that I cannot make anyone responsible for my happiness or my pain.
Did I like this painful experience I went through?
But I wouldn’t change a thing.
This painful experience is what transformed me from being a victim to becoming a warrior. I love that I can write about my journey and be vulnerable with you about my feelings without shame. Yes, I was hurt. Haven’t we all? In that respect, I am not unique. I am not the first to get hurt nor will I be the last. What I did with my pain, however, is what sets me apart.
What are you going to do? Are you going to look at the darkness in your circumstances or you going to look for the light?
THE CHOICE IS YOURS!