Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pain Incites Growth

I have always been afraid of pain. Whether it be from headache - or heartache, avoidance has always been my panacea. After all, pain is just too uncomfortable. It's ugly. It's messy. It stirs up too much emotion. For most, pain leads to fear. We're all accustomed to that little connection. But it can also lead to anger, hopelessness, and even self-doubt. All those icky feelings that we want to run away from. So what do we do? We do what we do best. Avoid it. Put a cap on it. Close the door on it. Deny it. But when all is said and done, what are we really doing? We're denying the reality of life. The pain.. the problem.. inevitably comes back. And it comes back with a vengeance.

I recently started jogging, which has been amazing. The feeling of freedom and contentment that transpires during and after a run is pure bliss. For me, it has actually become sort of spiritual. There's a connection that's made. To God. To nature. To self. It's absolutely wonderful. But I have to admit, the first two weeks felt less like a spiritual encounter and more like a horror flick. Each time I'd try to run, my shins would scream out in pain. Every step felt like a jolt of electricity was being shot up my legs. It felt like torture. And afterwards, my shins were so sore that they were actually tender to the touch. There was a point in time, while laying on the couch with frozen peas on my legs, that I thought to myself This isn't for me. Who am I fooling? I'm not strong enough. I should just stop and maybe try again next summer. And I almost quit. Almost.

But this time, instead of quitting, (which remember I had grown accustomed to doing) I decided to push through it for another day. Just one more time. And after that day came and went, I convinced myself to try another.. and another... And one evening, as I was jogging through my neighorhood, smelling the sweet scents of Fall in the air, and home cooked meals floating out of kitchen windows, I realized that I was pain free. Where were those jolts? Where was the fear? Where was the doubt? They were all gone, and all that was left was peace.

That experience reminded me of the "Fight or Flight Response", which was a theory created by a physiologist named Walter Cannon. He found that when animals feel threatened, a part of their nervous system is activated which provides a burst of energy to either incite them to fight the threat, or flee for safety. The theory was later adapted to include emotional responses as well.  In the animal kingdom, both responses effectively can lead to safety, but that isn't always the case with us humans and our modern day dangers. 

In the case of my jogging experience, I chose to fight. I chose to give it my best shot, and I'm so glad that I did because it paid off. But it's not that easy when it comes to emotions. To matters of the heart. And so here we are. Here I sit, at 5:17am, going through an emotional moment, a painful time, and I want to flee. Fleeing right now would feel super. If I could just escape into a carton of chunky monkey ice-cream and hibernate from the world for a few weeks days, all would be well, right? RIGHT?! I don't think so. Something is telling me that I need to forge ahead. Something is telling me that if I want to grow as a woman - as a human being - I can't hide from emotional pain. I should embrace it, and learn from it. I should pull from it all of the creativity and wisdom that I can, in order to grow stronger.

So that's exactly what I will do.  And all that will be left is peace. 

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