The Pain Game.

I’m still writing about what hurts. My first official blog post on this site was just over a year ago and it began with:

“Well, this is not a novel–yet–so in proper form, I present a good ole, perhaps mistake-ridden, blog post. “Write hard and clear about what hurts,” Ernest Hemingway was once quoted as saying. So I will write hard and clear about what hurts, some of which still stings.”

That, if anything, is the heartbeat of writing and this blog for me. Here you will not find some polished version of reality, complete with perfectly arranged flat lays and pictures. It’s real, raw, and sometimes not pretty. So if you’re into that, continue, Braveheart.

Tonight I just found myself needing to process and write wildly about what stings. Most recently, not running a marathon I’ve trained hard for and, more importantly, the reasons behind that decision not to run, are burning me up. I’m not even really going to touch on why I’m not running it, but what I’m learning from it. This may be an even greater challenge (not running) than running the 26.2 miles itself. That’s easy, relatively speaking. I’ve done it before. I didn’t even enter a race the first time I ran a marathon. I just ran solo. I did it on a whim just because I wanted to see if I could run the 26.2 miles that people gawked over. I wanted to see if it was possiblefor me. I didn’t need a bib or have to pay money for that. All that was irrelevant to me. Running should be free, that’s my philosophy. 

But let’s get back on track. I’m currently in the midst of the sting, just dancing. Sometimes we have to dance in our pain, in that uncomfortable place of vulnerability, misunderstanding, disappointment, regret, and/or anger. I wrote a song about it once, the words painting a picture of the place of processing pain.

“I’m slow dancing in a burning room, on fire, yet not consumed…”

In this go round of confrontation with the pain of not running this marathon, or moreover, the reasons behind not running, I began to think, “Well, people are going through things ten million times more difficult and painful.” This is a thought I often have to tell my sissy sass to shut up when I’m complaining about something stupid. That’s totally relevant and necessary, at times. We need inward discipline and self-talk sometimes. But things aren’t black and white, and it’s not always the correct method and application for every situation. In this case, the people-are-going-through-worse mentality was dismissing and ignoring my own pain that I didn’t want to face.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I have a problem being super critical and hard on myself. It’s taken years of deconstructing thoughts and inward attitudes. It has been a process of finding roots to the entire system, then uprooting, replanting, and watering new seeds of mentality with unconditional love, mercy, and grace to fight self-criticism and self-hatred. I’ve practice disconnecting from my internal and external world for so long, that reconnecting has been a challenge. But I’m always up for a challenge, and the challenge of balance is where I’ve found it. I’ve found that minimizing pain or maximizing it beyond its actual size are both unhelpful. You have to call something what it is to actually deal with it. 

I began to think about how covering up pain, dismissing it as nothing, without experiencing it and letting it do its thing is detrimental. Covering up pain instead of processing it is a disservice to the person and the pain itself. Pain can be a beautiful thing to uncovering what’s truly in us. Pain can be purposeful. On the other hand, pain can be purposeless in some cases, unfortunately. One of the ways to make pain purposeless is to cover it. We’re wasting a trial if we stay in denial. Denial may be part of the processing of pain, but if it remains the landing strip for us, we lose.

Covering up pain instead of processing it creates pockets of pain that turn into infection. It doesn’t go away just because we cover it up. It’s that giant elephant in the room that someone attempts to hide behind a skinny coat rack. It’s a ridiculous picture. Denying pain doesn’t dismiss or alleviate it. Delving headlong into it for a minute to experience it diffuses it. It’s first through accepting that we have that pain, acknowledging it, processing it, swimming in it for a minute, and then letting it meld into our stories as we step on along that creates purpose to the entire pain game.

Jumping in, diving headlong, at the Escape The Cape Triathlon. Cape May, New Jersey.

I also want to note that we can swim in pain for far too long. I think that’s part of the reason I was, and still am at times, super hard on myself, because I stayed swimming in pain for longer than was purposeful and necessary. That’s called pity, self-pity. We can at times be a victim to something out of our control, but if we stay in the victim role for more than just that moment or far too long it can be crippling, and leave us dealing with life living through the lens of a victim every time. That’s a whole other story and book in itself.

I think in an attempt to protect myself from shitty-self-pity, as I endearingly refer to it, I can miss the steps necessary to acknowledging pain. It’s also a pride thing when it boils down to it. “Pride protects me,” I think, when in reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Pride pillages our souls and creates obstacles between us and people. It sets us further apart from humanity, our humanity and other’s. It creates isolation–“I stand alone, taller than the rest. I’m too good to be human; I’m too strong for weakness.” Our humility, agreeing with what’s true, is what will connect us to community. It’s in the face of fragility and finding we are weak that we see that something outside of ourselves is needed. Humility and humanity (should) go hand in hand.

We can’t do humanity alone. We were never created to do humanity alone. Humanity is not isolation; it’s a people, a nation, and a culture. It’s not just one and done on our own. The heartbeat of humanity is community. We were all born into something, into a culture, a family, a community. The degree of stability and effectiveness of those places and cultures and families we were born into varied, but nonetheless, we were brought into an already existent multitude. We didn’t just magically appear, devoid of dependence.

From the moment we were conceived we were of utter dependence on the body of our mothers. From birth until death we will live a life of dependence. The level of dependence will change, from the time we’re a baby into adulthood, but dependence itself remains a constant component and companion of every human to some degree. We are dependent on the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink, and the people we meet. Yes, people are on the same level of necessity to humanity as oxygen, food, and water. I think that because we’ve dismissed this need as unnecessary, luxurious, mythical, nonexistent, irrelevant, or in our attempt at self-protection, we’re internally dying and left wondering why. If you didn’t breathe you’d die. If you don’t connect you die. Oh, but if you connect, you can thrive and you can be most alive.

At times we test these boundaries, maybe we can go without x, y, and z to prove our self-sufficiency. Go ahead, you do that, and let me know how you feel in ten years, devoid of connection. I’ll give you a hint: you’ll be one proud, narcissistic, dissatisfied, miserable, and ugly creature. I’m not guessing in speculation; I’m speaking from experience. I’ve tasted a bit of that punch for myself, and you can keep it if you want. The pain of connection and confronting fears of intimacy, the possibility of being rejected at revealing of oneself more and more fully, is not necessarily less painful, but full of more gain than isolation. This is what I’ve determined through the experience. You come to your own conclusions though. 

Side note: It’s not just about meeting people.

We’ve all been there, I imagine, in a crowded room where we don’t know a single soul we feel incredibly alone. It’s not that we are alone physically, but internally. We know no one and are known by no one in that crowded room. We have an innate need to be known. This “known” is not just at surface level. If it stays at surface level and it’s not meeting the depth of the need internally, we are left deficient and disconnected. We can also be in a room with just one person who does know us and be “disconnected,” leaving our interactions at surface level. Our level of engagement, and revealing our interior, is our responsibility, and we alone hold our key.

Uncomfortable 

“I’m too strong for this,” is generally the song my mind sings when I feel the sting of pain. It’s a mechanism of self-protection when I realize I’ve been cut and I’m bleeding. I don’t want anyone to see. I literally apologize for bleeding. I apologize for my humanity, “I’m sorry, I felt an emotion generally regarded as negative. That must have made you uncomfortable.”

Damn it, get uncomfortable! This life isn’t about comfort. Life and comfort could not be more antithetical. I don’t know who ever started the rumor and lie that they are synonymous, but it is blinding so many people today from actually living. People, especially Americans, are looking for lives of ease and comfort as the purpose and goal, and missing it all. We’re setting ourselves up for disappointment and disillusionment of epic proportions when we adhere to such beliefs. Live a life full of chasing comfort and find you’ve been dying the entire time, missing life.

Meanwhile, on discomfort, I’ve kept thinking to myself this week while still wrestling whether or not to run the marathon this weekend, “How badass would it be to run a marathon the week of being tested for cancer?” Therein I found my answer to questioning whether or not to run. It was against my wellbeing that I would be found running this time. That’s something I vowed not to do anymore. Running wasn’t going to be a tool of self-destruction I had resolved. Using running as a self-destructive behavior was an insult to the beautiful gift that it truly could be to me.

Being sick makes me feel like an inconvenience. That is painful. Meanwhile, I’m getting to the roots of “feeling like an inconvenience,” and chronically apologizing for bleeding in my humanity. Not having answers makes me feel like I’m making things up. “Am I crazy?” I can’t count the amount of times I’ve asked myself that lately or told myself I’m too young for this ish.

P.S., I apologize for the profanity speckled through here. It’s not my usual style, but occasionally, yeah, every once in a while…. Here’s a quote that keeps popping into my head from a book I most recently read, which I completely recommend, by the way.

“I can confidently say that stories of pain and courage almost always include two things: praying and cussing. Sometimes at the exact same time.”

 Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

It’s here the quandary of pain that I realized something. People can be a key component in the processing, purposefulness, and redemptive nature of the plight of pain. Yes, indeed, they might just be the healing that one is needing. This is not a formula or one-size fits all conclusion.

But through this, I’m seeing the healing of pain in a whole new way, and it’s personal and with people. The voices of the people in my life have given me perspective on pain that I could not accurately see on my own. I was “no pain, no gain,” all the way–but that saying can’t be used across the board. The thing about pain is that it convolutes and even blinds our vision and we can make bad decisions. That’s when we need people who can see clearly to paint the picture of proper perspective of reality, not what our pain sees or wants to see, to choose wisely. And this, my friends, is why I’m not running. So chiming into the next line of that song I wrote,

“I won’t leave this place too soon. Yeah, I’ll stay dancing in this burning room.”

-Bee

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