In living. In divorcing. On Mondays. Pain is an integral part of life and that comes to some of us as pretty awful news.
I spent the first half of my life attempting to avoid pain and seek pleasure. It landed me in a pretty horrible spot. And I also did my level best to make you responsible for my happiness and my disappointment and pain. It didn’t work no matter how hard I tried, I could never find anyone who was willing to take on all that responsibility. When I had my awakening (the first of many) at 25, I saw that I was the one responsible for all of it. How I did life and living. How I related to others, or didn’t. How I showed up, or really more accurately how I didn’t. These were the things that were fucking up my life. Not you and your failure to be responsible for me. It was me the whole time.
Since that first Ah Ha moment, I have had many others but they all are really more confirmation of the same thing, there will be pain in life. And there are lots of ways to avoid it, or try to. And there are lots of ways to seek it out. But no matter what I do, life is going to have pain. Physical, emotional, spiritual pain. None of us are immune. That is the bad news.
The good news is that suffering is optional. I have learned that also. Just because the circumstances of my life might be painful right now, doesn’t mean I have to suffer. I grew up with the belief that somehow if things were not to my liking, then I had to be morose and depressed. I mean, what other response can one have to pain? And I lived that way a long time. Thinking that there was no other way than to give in to the pain and throw up my hands and begin the “woe is me” chanting.
But somewhere along this whole painful life, I learned that the arrival of pain is a signal. It is there for a purpose and reason. Physical pain is there to tell me to stop doing something like drinking myself to death, or to start doing something, like exercise to keep my blood sugar in check. Physical pain is the body’s way of communicating a need. Sometimes the pain is swift and acute, designed to get my immediate attention. And other times it comes in more of a dull ache that is easier to ignore for a longer period of time.
Regardless, pain is there to wake me up, to grab my attention and get me thinking differently about my situation. In my experience, emotional and spiritual pain do the same exact thing.
Pain’s arrival has come to be a harbinger of good news. It is a sign that something needs to change within me. Not you. Or that guy over there. Me. I need to alter course and pain’s arrival is the largest and most flagrant flag signaling that I need to do something differently.
Since I work in divorce, I am going to take a moment here to acknowledge how difficult breakups are and how painful it is to move through the demise of your marriage. But I am also going to offer up that the pain you feel is there to teach you something. Something about you, about life, about how you are living. And you get to choose. You can ignore it. You can allow it to swallow you whole. Or you can take a step back and see what this very painful life event is showing you.
As in life, so in divorce, there will be pain. But suffering is optional. You don’t have design your life so that you don’t miss any of the pain and you don’t have to move so fast in your life that you attempt to out run it either. Pain is here because it is trying to teach you something. Always.
I have learned that suffering is what happens when I attempt to ignore pain. I am either attempting to side step it or sometimes, I just wallow in it in some attempt to give in always with the thought that if I just give in, pain will have mercy on me and pass me by. I have worked really hard to try to stop doing this because me begging pain to pass me by is futile. And it is also not a good spiritual practice. I mean if pain is here it is for a reason, and if I am trying to dodge it, then what I am really saying is that I hope it misses me and hits you. And that is not a good spiritual condition ever.
There will be pain. What I have learned is that my attempt to avoid or deny pain only makes it worse. The best thing I have come to learn to do is to just accept that it is here and to see what it is trying to teach me. Do I need to slow down, change course? Do I need take better care of myself and my relationships? If I am hurting, why? And it doesn’t take me long to really get to the source of the issue. Most pain in my life is emotional. I realize this is a blessing. Emotions change like an incoming storm. Bright and sunny one minute, clouded over and stormy the next. Physical pain can be much more pervasive and long lasting. So as much as I hate feeling, it is the easier, softer way. I can think myself right out of being upset or pissed, but I cannot think my way out of my back being totally out of whack.
So in divorce, as in life, there will be pain. I have come to believe that the best and most beneficial use of pain is to allow it to wake me up and show me where I am. What is going on? How I am feeling? And then to investigate that pain, its source, its beginning, its end and learn as much as I can about it all. And accept, one more time, there will be pain.