Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Person I Am: Shaped by Pain

Originally posted November 23, 2011

It is 4:00 am. I want to be asleep. My body is physically worn out thanks to the demands of a busy day and the fact that I'm now 5 days away from my third trimester. But alas I cannot sleep. I finally got out of a restless bed to do something more productive, but relaxing. Writing is relaxing for me. My nights are getting a bit harder in general. It's not easy to get comfortable when you can't lay on your back or stomach and you have a basketball for a belly. A basketball that kicks. Tonight was different though. My shoulder is burning. I get this horrible, burning, aching pain in my shoulders and upper back. It's my body's way of letting me know I overdid it. I guess all the cleaning, baking, laundry, dishes, and toddler chasing from yesterday were a bit much. The pain is always the first thing to remind me that pushing myself too hard has consequences.
I shun pain as much as the rest of the world. I don't like to hurt. Not physically, mentally, or emotionally. Especially the later two. But in all reality, I am thankful for pain. I truly am. It may seem strange, but I can honestly say that without pain I wouldn't be the person I am today.
When I was young, probably about 7, I broke the blinds in my brother's room. When confronted about it I lied and said my sister did it. She denied it. We were both punished until the truth was found out. It was a very painful and horrible ordeal. I had disappointed my parents terribly. I hated disappointing my parents. It was painful for my sister, and I had caused that. I finally told the truth and was grounded for a week. I had to sit inside while my family was out raking and jumping in leaves. I love fall. Jumping in leaves was my favorite. But I learned. Lying is not acceptable. That experience shaped me.
There was the pain of losing 2 of my friends in the same year. That year happened to be when I was in 6th grade. Even though my grandfather had died when I was 8, this was really my first experience of loss and death. It shaped me.
From 4th to 6th grade I had very few, almost no friends. I was alone during most recesses. I sat and ate alone. I was teased. The few friends I had were mean to me. When I entered middle school I found true friends. Friends that valued and loved me. The way I pick and choose friends was shaped by that experience.
There were plenty of painful experiences in high school as well: abusive boyfriend, the beginning of an eating disorder, 9/11. Things that shaped me.
In college I developed fibromyalgia. Constant physical pain. That started me down a path to self-kindness. Oh this path took years (and I wouldn't say I'm "there" yet), but the pain started it all. I was running myself into the ground. I couldn't physically do everything I was trying to do. I started learning to pace myself, to say no, to set up boundaries, and to be kind to myself.
The pain of my disordered eating finally caught up to me as well. Resulting in this blog. It has changed the way I eat today. It has helped me to be healthier (in the end). It has shaped my attitude towards food and my body. No longer in a negative way. I got fed up with that. I was tired of the pain. So I made a change.
Then there was the day all the pain medications failed 3 times. I was in labor for 2 days. That was real, physical, intense pain. But now I watch as my beautiful little boy runs around the house and tells me to, "Mon" (come on) when he wants to show me something. Lots of physical pain to get him here. But now that he's here I have the most joy I've had my entire life.
So when I say, on this eve of Thanksgiving, that I'm thankful for pain I hope you can see why. I can't say that my burning shoulder is teaching me any profound lesson tonight (other than I should have taken more breaks yesterday), but I do know that some of the hardest fought and most precious lessons I have learned in this life have come as a result of pain. Letting ourselves feel our pain is a beautiful, difficult, sometimes horrifying, thing. But if we allow it to teach us it can shape our lives. We choose how to react to the pain and how to let it change us. The first step is feeling it.
*This post is part of November’s Self-Discovery, Word by Word series, hosted by Shannon over at Nourishing the Soul. If you want to participate check it out.