WE KILL OURSELVES TO AVOID PAIN
After years of working in the death & dying conversation, after suffering some of my greatest personal losses of a lifetime, & sorrowfully positive that there are so many more losses to come (namely, everything), it takes so much for me to trust that the only way to get through the heartbreak of life is by accepting & engaging with it.
And wow, how absolutely raised I was in my family & this culture to avoid that pain at all costs. To turn off the hurt anyway possible, to numb out, often with unconscious subtlety - a pint of ice cream & the next great action movie - & sometimes unabashedly conscious - with drugs or booze. We will go so far to avoid pain that we kill ourselves, often slowly, with the deepest addicted commitment. I want to write that again, because as of late, it strikes me as so totally at the heart of our issues as a culture:
WE WILL KILL OURSELVES TO AVOID PAIN.
And oh how much pain there is to avoid. It's the very reason I understand when people hear about You're Going to Die & respond with, "No thank you! Not for me."
It is so hard to go there.
But go there we will. Eventually. No matter what.
And my heart, my being, my spirit, regularly reminds me of the truth: the only way I'll gain from the pain of it all is by feeling it. And the only way anyone else I ever meet will learn from the heartbreak I've gone through, is by my letting go into it. Practicing pain. Allowing it to show up fully in my life, like it so naturally, eventually does.
“Suffering is a misunderstanding. [...] It exists… It’s real. I can call it a misunderstanding, but I can’t pretend that it doesn’t exist, or will ever cease to exist. Suffering is the condition on which we live. And when it comes, you know it. You know it as the truth. Of course it’s right to cure diseases, to prevent hunger & injustice, as the social organism does. But no society can change the nature of existence. We can’t prevent suffering. This pain & that pain, yes, but not Pain. A society can only relieve social suffering, unnecessary suffering. The rest remains. The root, the reality. All of us here are going to know grief; if we live fifty years, we’ll have known pain for fifty years… And yet, I wonder if it isn’t all a misunderstanding — this grasping after happiness, this fear of pain… If instead of fearing it & running from it, one could… get through it, go beyond it. There is something beyond it. It’s the self that suffers, & there’s a place where the self—ceases. I don’t know how to say it. But I believe that the reality — the truth that I recognize in suffering as I don’t in comfort & happiness — that the reality of pain is not pain. If you can get through it. If you can endure it all the way.”
- Ursula K. Le Guin
Death, heartbreak, pain, suffering... it's a part of our past, our future & deep in the midst of life today. And while I think I need to simultaneously practice balancing all of the hurt with engagement in joy & embodying lightness whenever I can, the hardest parts of life are closer than we sometimes admit. We may as well acknowledge & source them to inspire our greater, deeper, vaster life, so while we're alive we can show up as fully & completely as we possibly can... for ourselves, but maybe, & most importantly, for one another.
[Artwork collab with Hey Leon Media!]