Yes, I was one of those. I was the girl who read The Fault in Our Stars the summer before my senior year of high school. I was the girl who stayed up until four in the morning to finish it, and I was the girl who had to put the book down for a solid thirty minutes before the end even approached so that I could ugly cry into my pillow in the privacy of my own room.
Yes I was the girl who went to the theaters on opening night, and yes I was the girl who dragged my boyfriend to see it just a few weeks after. I was that girl, and you know why? Because that book caused me to feel something, it caused me to hurt, it caused me to think it over for a few weeks a replay some of the scenes in my head. It caused me to befriend the characters and mourn the losses. It caused me to feel pain, and sometimes pain is good, right?
But I was in control of the pain. Unlike the characters, and the people whose lives cause them to relate way too closely to the characters, I could turn my pain off when need be. I could focus on other things, and I could come back to the pain whenever it was convenient. When I read that book, my pain did NOT demand to be felt, and little pain up to that point in my life ever had.
That might have been one of the very few quotes in the book that I could not relate to. I could relate to the thought that, “my thoughts are starts that I cannot fathom into constellations.” I could relate to the idea that, “the marks that humans leave are too often scars.” And boy, could I relate to the quote, “What a slut time is. She screws everybody,” that hoe. But at that point in my life I’d never known a pain so determined to be felt that I could not avoid it. Sure, I’d been dumped, a time or two. That was easy, I ignored the pain by hating the guy. Sure, I’d lost distant relatives, but that pain is really only felt at the time of the funeral. And sure I had seen my fair share of a battle with depression, but everyone has ways of fixing you from that, so even if the eating better, working out, and counting to ten doesn’t actually work, it keeps you distracted enough to work as a Placebo.
But now, over four years later, I’ve met my match with pain. And it sure as heck demands that I feel it. There are times when my body shakes with every emotion all at once: anger, sadness, frustration, self-pity, self-hatred, hopelessness, contempt, all molded into this one ball of absolute and total, breath-taking, earth shaking, pain. There are days when the more I ignore it the more prevalent it appears in the back, front, and deepest parts of my mind. There are days when my heart physically hurts in a way that not even JK Rowling could convey in the many heart-wrenching losses in Harry Potter. There are days when I am, simply put, in pain.
And when it was finally apparent to me that this particular pain of this particular event could not be defeated, could not be ignored, could not be diminished by binge watching episodes of “New Girl” and making half-hearted attempts at lame jokes, I saw only one true healthy option:
I befriended him.
I befriended this pain. I even let him tell me what to do sometimes. I let him tell me when I should cry, even when it’s not exactly the most opportune of moments. I let him tell me when I should lay in bed and do nothing but watch the flickering of the candle on my bedside table. I let him tell me what to write in my journal, and I let him tell me what to rip out of the same journal and tear apart in anger. I let him tell me what days are worth putting makeup on, and what days are worth cuddling up in my pajamas.
And eventually, something crazy happened. Eventually, he began to tell me to be happy. He began to point out the small victories that once flew through my life without notice. He began to remind me of the days of greatest hurts so that I may find such comfort in the days of absolutely average happiness. He demanded to be felt, so that I might also feel it when he lightens his load.
You see, that’s the thing about pain that demands to be felt: he makes it all the more evident when joy pokes her head through. Heavy streaks of bad days lined up in a row make for more than just a joyous good day when it finally arrives, but a miraculous day! This pain, this friend, he told me what to do, but he didn’t control me. Pain only controls you when you work tirelessly to ignore it, and at that time you are too exhausted to celebrate when he eases.
I befriended pain. I did not surrender to him. I simply accepted and embraced a relationship with him, and he became good to me. He stopped me from bottling, he stopped me from filling the deepest pits of my belly with knotted anxiety, he stopped me from ignoring his existence, and in return he made the moments of peace, comfort, joy, and happiness mean so much more to me than it ever has before. I’m thankful for my pain, and for his ability to finally be felt in my stubborn and denying soul.
Life is truly lovely, even in the moments of deepest pains.Embrace Him.
Picture credit: Chelsea Sweet