The Sandpaper of Life
I was having tea with a friend this week and we were talking about pain. We had both recently experienced a big loss in our lives and wanted to share time and tears. Our conversation stirred up feelings for me and I felt I needed to share some of the thoughts and musings that arose from the conversation.
I believe we are brought up in a culture that avoids pain – at all costs. We are told to chin up, bite your lip and suck it up. We are told not to cry. I wonder if that serves us? When someone cries or is angry we immediately try to shush them. We tell them: “It’s okay…stop crying.” Why do we say that? Why can’t we let them cry? When we tell someone to stop crying we are not allowing them to release their pain; to begin to heal from that pain.
Does their pain cause us to look at our own pain? Maybe we just can’t go to that place inside ourselves and their crying stirs up our old pain. It makes my heart ache to see someone in pain or if they are crying. But we must let them have their experience, we cannot try to stop or limit it. It might even hurt more to see someone that cannot cry or feel…that cannot look at their pain. They may have built up walls around their pain to avoid it. That is what we are taught to do, and then we actually take it in and believe it.
When I took my Pet Loss and Bereavement Counselling, one of the things I learned is that we often have a grief history. A grief history of pain that we could not, or would not deal with at the time. Loss, grief and suffering may appear in many ways: the loss of a childhood pet, moving away from family and friends, losing a job, the loss of a spouse through death or divorce, the loss of our innocence too early, not achieving a goal, losing a race…etc…
So, when we do experience loss it becomes much greater than one single event. All of the stored up grief may come up and out at once and overwhelms us. We may not even understand why an event that is not all that earth shattering causes us so much pain or anxiety. This is because we are not responding to the current pain, but the accumulated pain of many experiences. Think of a pressure cooker…if we take the lid off, all of the steam escapes at once. If we do not, it builds and builds.
If we have been taught not to allow feelings to emerge, perhaps we simply stuff it down once again. What happens then? We continue to build walls until we no longer feel much at all. Our culture also teaches us how to numb out the pain: through being busy, through medications or alcohol, and through addictions. We may soothe ourselves with overeating or watching television. Look around you in an airport or a coffee shop – we are all so immersed in our iPods, cell phones and laptops we are not even engaging with one another anymore. How do we deal with pain or feel any emotion if we are constantly distracted? We run and we run. But we cannot run forever. It WILL catch up with us eventually. It can show up as depression, anxiety, impatience, anger or some form of illness in the body.
This quote summarizes it well: “The sorrow which has no vent in tears may make other organs weep.” ~Henry Maudsley In other words: WE GET SICK – eventually.
There is a saying about suffering being the sandpaper of life…it shapes us and makes us stronger in the end. I often feel like I have dealt with most situations in my life; that I have done my work. I feel pretty polished. Then a situation arises and I feel like I have been stripped right down to bare wood again. I feel raw. Then comes the process of rebuilding; the sanding and the refinishing. We apply layers of products that bring back the shine and polish. In other words, we cry, we grieve, we let ourselves feel and learn from it. We have been restored. We are back together again; presentable.
And we hope that we do not have to experience pain, grief, sorrow or loss again. We cannot imagine that it could rear its ugly head again. Surely it is over with once and for all. Right?
Like a rose with its velvety petals and sweet aroma, it too, has thorns. And life is about those polarities –we need to experience pain to truly embrace joy. Are we not perhaps more capable of handling what might arise now? Have we become stronger? That is the hope. All I know is that every person, and every situation provides us with the opportunity to grow. They all have their gifts and their lessons. Although the awareness of that might not be evident immediately, it does exist. The sun is always shining behind the clouds, even though we cannot always see it.
I know the article might be a little heavy this week. My intention is always to shine some light on different topics, to get the wheels turning and help us move toward our best life. When we are aware, then we have the opportunity to do so.
I am always here for feedback, topic ideas and support should you wish to book some time with me.
Be gentle with yourself…you are precious indeed.