“When we meet real tragedy in life, we can react in two ways--either by losing hope and falling into self-destructive habits, or by using the challenge to find our inner strength.” The Dalai Lama
Everyone has experienced pain- it's a universal subject.
You know my friend, Pain.
There are psychological wounds of childhood and emotional damage of adulthood. When pain is a theme that has crossed your path for what seems like too many times, you either get pretty good at turning lemons into lemonade, or adding limes to your margaritas. You either learn efficient ways to screw up your life because of the pain from the past manifests into your present pain, or you do SOMETHING constructive with it!
Your choice! Even though pain makes you feel powerless, it is a choice!
Let me tell you about one of my emotional scars...
Before I met my husband there was a 3 year gap between my former boyfriend and the man I ultimately married. The 3 year gap was similar to a pilgrimage or an Aboriginal Walkabout (ok, a little dramatic).
Self discovery was my mission!
And here's why...
I met my dream guy one day after the gym. He was the kind of guy who made me want to break my #1 dating rule- never ask a guy out (hey, I'm old fashioned). Luckily he caught on to my flirtatious puppy dog eyes paired with my sultry smirk and he asked me out first! God bless America (jumping for joy at this point).
We immediately connected over tennis wagers (all in good fun especially when he won the first game and I had to kiss him). We enjoyed hiking, cozy couch movie nights, walks on the beach, and long talks til 4am.
There was no doubt in my mind he was my soul mate.
Months went by, he said 'I love you'. I got accustomed to being with him every day and night, and suddenly he was gone.
A phone call ended it all.
His mom called to inform me he was involved in a drowning accident while I was at work. That was the end....or it was the moment my life changed forever.
I was just young enough to believe this was my entire story. This was it and my life was over.
And so my journey began...
After getting the news, I cried. I hadn't cried in years (one tough cookie). I hadn't been to church in years either and the first thing I did was take a walk to the church across the street from my apartment. It was late evening and I had cried so hard, I fell asleep on the front step of the building. I dreamt, or imagined, his words in my head saying, "Goodbye" and "Sorry".
I had a wonderful friend who stayed with me a couple of months, when times were tough. I got to know his sister and mother, and shared in their grieving process. Time stood still, but eventually the real world awaited.
It was a moment of either letting this pain define me or giving it new purpose.
I wanted to change things drastically to ensure this new purpose imprinted on me forever and never became dull in my soul. I gave up my new car, my new apartment, and most of my furniture except my bed (where I slept) and my desk (where I wrote). No TV. No phone. Completely downsized living space. I quit the job I hated and took up harder work with better people.
I had no desire to date and more desire to isolate. I wasn't depressed though. Instead of shrinking in pain, I was growing and blossoming. I was determined to go through this pain and come out better than before.
I had even moved beyond the sadness and found a free-feeling euphoria. There were vivid dreams about him. They spoke to me like some kind of vision. I found spiritual purpose. I found lessons in my life that were begging to be learned. It all sounds crazy if I hadn't been there myself.
I took a very unfortunate circumstance and found purpose. This is a big decision in each of our lives because we have different types of pain. Not everyone can relate to us so the meaning and purpose must come from within...and be personal to you.
I've had tough times since, and lots of pain, but it's the purpose that drives me. Once you know you can get through just one painful experience it gives you a sense of control (we all like that!).
That inner voice begins to say 'You can do this' instead of 'I'll never get over this'.
I can honestly tell you I am a completely different person. I have an acute understanding of how precious life is. And that sometimes my way, my plan, and my desires, are not what's best for me.
With every fiber of my being, I was convinced he was my soul mate, but if I was right about MY plan, he wouldn't have been taken. There's always a purpose. Don't give up finding it!
And back to my husband...
My husband lived a fast and hard life in his youth, especially destructive after his own losses. His cousin and friend's tragic deaths could've very well been him so he wondered why he was still alive when they'd been taken. In the meantime my thought was, 'Wow I must have great purpose if I'm still here'.
Pain is not an excuse to go on a self-destructive binge!
Don't miss this opportunity to find it. Pain is always the first step or response after tragedy, setbacks, or major disappointments. Pain is there for a reason. When you touch a hot stove, you feel pain, and you move your hand the hell away from the source.
There's all types of pain, but it's there to teach you a lesson. Emotional pain still requires immediate attention. While it can be hidden easier as we mature, it's necessary to learn your lesson, and find the purpose to move away from the pain.
~ Accept what caused you pain. Accepting things helps you separate it from yourself and realize nothing changes that pain, but you can change. Accepting is not rehashing the event, or even forgiving (I don't believe in the forgive and you will be set free B.S), or cause of pain over and over again or placing blame or spinning your wheels. It simply says, "Okay this happened...now what are you going to do?"
~ Become an advocate for that which caused you pain. Help and inform others with similar pain- support groups, speaking to others, and causes.
~ Flip your perspective. When we're in pain we curl up in a ball (fetal position) and believe our story is the only one. Of course it's written from our perspective so it's bias. Make up another story (and perspective).
~ Search for the meaning. I'm all about signs and serendipity because it's all around us and it just makes sense of what we can't typically make sense of. I still don't know why bad things happen to good people, but I be there's some clues in that person's life to help make sense of it.
~ Join a group or be with others that know your pain. Having said this, don't stay stuck here. Yes, there's support group junkies. Get ideas. Get support.
~ Perhaps aside from groups...make your world small. Focus on the big things, the things that matter. Pain can cloud our judgment and often makes mountains out of molehills so that one little thing sets off the psychological/emotional trigger.
~ Make plans. Decide how your life should ,and could, benefit from what has caused you pain. In other words, become a better person FOR it! This is a process of moving forward, but if moving forward is strenuous and difficult, depression can play a key factor inhibiting your growth and professional help would be ideal.
From pain, arises plans!
I'm passionate about no-nonsense self-improvement. Too many of us are plagued by faulty thought patterns- I aim to change that!