It took me too long to realize that I’ve been living in fear. In fear of feeling anything that hurts. I’ve stacked my life choices to create a barrier around myself, where everything I feel is predictable. Where I can keep myself safe from anything that could lead to pain. But the barrier crumbled because it wasn’t made to withstand the powerful current of life. No barrier can stay standing when reality forces its way in. Life – the painful part of life that I so carefully shielded myself from all this time – took my barrier down and left me exposed and vulnerable. And if it hasn’t already, it will do the same to you someday.
So, here I am. Feeling what I’ve never had to from the safety of my barrier. It’s cold without the insulation of my walls, painfully and shockingly cold. Like a frigid gust of January wind just knocked me over. I realize that the barrier never actually protected me from anything. In fact, it made me weaker. It suffocated me with safety, held a tight grip around me so that I couldn’t grow. I spent too long hiding in this stifling place. All the effort that it took to create my hiding spot and the pain caught up to me anyway. And when it arrived, I learned the hard way that without my walls, I had nothing to lean on. I wasn’t strong enough to lean on myself.
I realize now that there’s value – so much value – in pain. Because the pain is your pain. It’s rooted in your own experiences and it lives in the deepest, most tender part of you. Pain is your teacher, your friend. It’s on your side, to help you learn about yourself and the world. It’s not as scary as it seems, and in fact, it’s kind. All it wants to do is help you become stronger, wiser and more resilient. It’s like emergency flares flashing during a storm, urging you to look inward for direction when you feel lost.
So, when pain arrives, don’t turn it away. Be brave and allow it in. Allow what comes after, be it tears or a scream or the urge to punch a wall. See how it feels to walk hand in hand with your pain for a while. Observe how it takes shape in your life, in how you view yourself and the world. In how you ask for help, and who shows up for you when you do. Instead of focusing on how much it hurts, focus on the lesson and insight that it offers.
When you have the courage to feel pain, you grow in ways that you never thought possible. You experience what you’re truly capable of. You explore the beautiful places within yourself that you didn’t know existed. You peer into the well of your soul and feel its texture. You face yourself. And when the pain fades, you emerge with your feet planted more firmly on the ground. Now, it takes a much greater force to knock you down.