In an age of inspirational memes, Ted Talks and all manner of leadership and self-help books, it can be easy to confuse intentional living with trying to “be happy” all the time. I’m an optimistic person by nature and I consistently choose to see the good in situations (and people), but that doesn’t mean I don’t get sad, confused or irritable. I do. My husband and children can confirm it.
I have always been a highly sensitive person, which means…I FEEL…a lot and often. I have spent most of my life cultivating practices, experiences and relationships that support me feeling more of what I choose, namely: joy, connection, creative expression and the experience of making a contribution. I am quite confident that all the work I have done and the choices I continue to make, shift my experience of life in significantly positive ways. But I have also come to respect the gifts that pain, sadness and grief have to offer me. Many of my life’s biggest lessons came on the heels of my biggest hurts. In the midst of some of the most challenging moments, with swollen eyes, and a hoarse voice, I have come to know and appreciate my limits, vulnerability, courage and strength.
I know some amazingly powerful people who are incredible “rocks” and “carry-on-ers”. I am in awe of their ability to boldly and independently persevere in the face of pain, devastation and loss. But I also wonder if they are receiving the full lesson that life is offering them in these moments. Pain is a master teacher and sadness, if not allowed to move through us, finds a place to hide out.
So how do we honor these uncomfortable feelings?
Start with the truth. “I feel ___(betrayed/alone/scared/angry).”
Allow it. Just be right there in the middle of it and let yourself feel.
If you are not clear why, ask. “Why am I feeling this way?”
Wait for the answer. *I think you are the best person to answer this question, but if you just can’t get it, ask for help from someone you trust.
Take time with it. You may need to sit with the answer for a little while. Pain is not usually a fast teacher and sometimes naming the pain (identifying why we are truly hurting) can open us to feeling the true depth of it. Hang on, you can do this.
When you are ready, look for that gift. It may be that you are becoming more clear about a bigger vision for your life, your work, your relationships. Perhaps it’s time for a new commitment about how you present yourself, set boundaries, or ask for help. Or maybe you are simply allowing your empathetic nature to express itself.
If you took the time to do the above and got to the point where you recognized the gift in it, you probably had a moment where your heart and your mind said, “Yep, that’s it!” And along with that recognition, comes the possibility of moving through it, and transitioning back to more joy and ease. This is the space where you get to claim and own the “something more” you have just discovered for your life. Don’t be surprised if at this stage you begin to feel a sense of peace or even excitement. Crazy ride, right?
If you can have the courage to be with the pain – that is inherent to living and being engaged in life – I think you will discover how much stronger you feel on the other side.