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Pain as a Teacher

I think I will start writing something every day. Not so much as a journal of my life but the passing of beautifully fragmented thoughts that spring into my consciousness. I’ve distanced myself from collecting my thoughts in some childish resistance to the ever-hungry monster of social media content. As if somehow my refusal to write would starve him into oblivion. Unfortunately, the monster lives on, thrives actually!  So I’ve decided my petulance must end.

Today I write with a recent brightness imposed upon a deep 2-year heaviness I’ve carried since the death of my father. He passed in mid-2020 and it shook my reality. I’ve never been one that naturally takes to loss, particularly death. In a way, it seems contagious. So beyond lamenting my losses I would go on to feel somehow cursed by loss. This has led to some drastic changes in my life. In one change I became obsessed with the notion that I had to answer the phone no matter what, just in case it was bad news. This is a habit I still carry on today. With another loss, I changed my religion because the chaos of random loss seemed antithetical to the ordered perspective I had of God. In this most recent it mutated into a fear of infection and of course a new spiritual outlook. But today, after a conversation with my husband, where he pointed out this predictable pattern of mine, I decided I was done being tethered to the past. My rope is so tight it is keeping me from moving into the emotional present I want.

As a regular practitioner of mindfulness, you’d think I’d be able to shake off the weight of loss but that’s not its purpose. At times I’ve noted that mindfulness can actually make the pain worse. But it gives new perspectiv. It reminds me of the time I burned my wrist being overly curious about a pot on the stove. It was full of jambalaya so my vegan self couldn’t even eat it. But there I was burned pretty badly on my wrist in the middle of a party. My friends treated my wounds and I sat on the couch. But anyone that’s been burned before knows there’s little you can do for the pain. It just is. I found myself trying to focus on other things. Yo turn my mind away the misery. It just tainted my other thoughts. I was irritable and embarrassed. Then I decided to focus on the pain. Become the pain. It rolled just like how fire did; flickered from location to location it’s path was unpredictable. The pain didn’t decrease during this meditation. But it began making sense. There was no reason for it. This is how my body responded to injury. It wasn’t thinking of me and my day, what I needed. It was only trying to process injury so it could heal the wound. Sadness, heaviness, and loss are the same. These emotions don’t have sentience. They are a mechanism we have developed to process pain. Separation is pain. So next time you’re responding to a separation, wether it be a job, a relationship, or a death, try running toward it rather than away. Feel it rather than avoid it. The feeling won’t be a great one, but it can provide beautiful insight into your unique processing of pain. Unfortunately, you must travel the tough paths at times. Just know you have a fellow traveler in me.

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