“Until you heal the wounds of your past, you are going to bleed. You can bandage the bleeding with food, with alcohol, with drugs, with work, with cigarettes, with sex; but eventually, it will all ooze through and stain your life. You must find the strength to open the wounds, stick your hands inside, pull out the core of the pain that is holding you in your past […] and make peace with them.” ~ Iyanla Vanzant
Haven’t Got Time for the Pain
Unpacking pain is part of our life’s work. I am still often amazed by just how far and how fast I am willing to run, in my completely pointless attempts to avoid pain. Eat a whole pizza to placate my agony? I’m there. Sleep through an entire decade of my life? Yep. Been there, done that. Spend too much money on shit I never use after I buy it? Guilty as charged.
In fact, I spent years hanging on by the skin of my teeth simply because I was unwilling to open the burgeoning bag of bullshit I was dragging around. No matter how heavy that crap got, I was prepared to drag it around because opening the vault was so terrifying that paralytic depression set in to stop me. I didn’t want to poke the beast that I’d relegated to the basement of my life. I figured — out of sight, out of mind — right?
My capacity for enduring pain rather than processing it, is momentous. Truly.
Yet, I know all too well what I’ll find if I open Pandora’s Box: Those daggers I’ve yet to dig out of my bloodied back. My slippery, rainbow trout heart, hook still embedded in its flesh. The pieces of myself that I gave away cheap.
Well, shit. Who wants to look at that?
“Child. Listen to me. Open up your heart for a moment and listen. You don’t need to banish your anger or bury your grief and sadness. The fact that you may feel anger about some injustice or inequity; the fact that you have the capacity to feel grief and sadness means that life still touches you. Learn to trust the wisdom-river flowing beneath the river of these emotions. Learn to walk with your depression, your anxiety, your anger as a teacher and a friend. The fact that you feel means that you care. The thing you really have to watch out for is indifference. The ones who don’t feel anything are the ones who are destroying the world.”–doña Río de Gracian
The Elephant in the Room
My pain is simply an indication that there’s something I am not seeing or acknowledging, something that needs my care and attention. No matter how fast I run, I will never escape from that agony until I actually turn and face it. The way to peace is through the pain. The pain is the doorway. The scars open the portal, the trap door, the leaking, oozing basement latch. Unless we step through that door, we cannot ever really have peace.
A couple of weeks ago, as part of the work I am doing with a friend, I did an exercise that required I draw an erroneous belief I had about myself. Almost on auto-pilot, I drew a doormat.
I started to sob when I looked at it.
Wow. After years of Buddhist practice and years of working with my negative self-talk and years of rebuilding my sense of self, there is still a part of me that felt like a doormat. On the drawing in my journal, I wrote:
Hi, I’m a doormat. WIPE YOUR FEET HERE. I am ugly and only worthy of being used. Always betrayed and abused. Unworthy. Wrong. Never enough. Ugly…
The diatribe went on, but you get the idea.
After I recovered — which I admit, took a while — I wrote, “This makes me so sad. It makes me feel so awful for the beautiful spirit/soul that I am.”
To Thine Own Self, Be True
Then, the exercise asked that we draw a picture of our true self.
Again, without knowing what would come forth, I drew an elephant with long luxurious eyelashes and a sweet face.
All around it, I wrote, “I come from a lineage that goes back 50 million years…I see deep into the past and deep into the future. I am wise and resolute. I trumpet loudly. I have confidence and joy. I am deeply bonded to those around me. I am large and lovely. Nothing can pierce my soft, wrinkled, thick skin. I am invincible.”
One of my close friends pointed out (when I told her about it) that I was finally embracing the bigness of my life. The space that I inhabit. That I was seeing myself as the old, wise being that I am.
What amazed me about this particular exercise and what spilled forth, was my wholly unconscious sense of myself, both in positive and negative terms.
Drawing myself as a doormat made me see that there was an aspect of my old pain that had remained obscured and hidden for all these years. Now that I saw it — now that the darkness was made conscious — I could release it. I said goodbye to the part of myself that felt victimized by life.
This Little Light of Mine
At the same time, I saw my true self clearly, for, perhaps, the first time.
My life is huge. My light is enormous. My capacity is limitless.
So, hidden in the muck and mess of all my anger and loss and pain, a jewel emerged. I pulled it forth. I did that. I am both delighted and a little terrified to discover so much beauty and so much light and so much power inside of me.
Don’t Dim Your Inner Light
Our pain is a portal. Our scars reveal our true strength. Our wounds carry our stories, our solace, and our answers.
Don’t be afraid of the dark.
© 2014 Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved
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