Collecting Pain

We all know pain. And when we feel it, there’s one thing we want to do – get as far away from it as possible.

Some pain is so unbearable, we physically try to run from it. By sprinting out the door, getting in the car, and driving away as fast as we can – as if driving away will leave the pain behind, instead of following us into the car, and being there no matter where we go. We also try to drown the pain, with drugs or alcohol or food. We attempt to kill the pain, by tearing it into tiny pieces, or burning it into ashes. Anything to avoid sitting in it – or near it.

Sometimes I simply avoid my pain, the way I put my least favorite tasks at the bottom of my to-do list. I’ll get to that one later…

But despite all my efforts to shuffle my pain to the bottom of the pile, the pain resurfaces. Like a thousand little stones that keep washing up on shore, my pain may get swept into the ocean for a while, but the tide of a new day, or a new moon will always bring it back to me. It will surface again, and again, until I have no choice but to pick it up.

And so reluctantly, I’ll pick up my pain. I’ll hold it in my hand and feel its weight. I’ll walk with it, noticing the sand beneath my feet, and the sunshine on my face. I’ll turn it over in my palm, and resist every urge I have to throw it back. Maybe it will destroy me. But if I’m brave enough to carry it with me, it also might save me. And after a while of walking with my pain, I begin to believe the second one is true.

And so I start collecting my pain – I am not avoiding it anymore. I gather sticks and stones and driftwood from my past. I am on the hunt for the ugliest, scraggliest branch, the one that will need to be carefully carried home, like a secret treasure.  I am surprised to discover, as I uproot my pain and brush off the dirt and grains of sand, I no longer want to throw it all back. Looking at it all at once, exposed, it doesn’t feel so scary anymore