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The word "comfortable" is heaven for all of us. At least the word is heaven for me. I see words as pictures and movies so "comfortable" to me looks like me lounging beside a pool in some villa on the Italian Riviera, bathing in the sun, drinking a virgin pina colada with a Pierre mineral water and reading one of the New York best sellers while dipping in for a swim now and then. The idea of comfortable though, in all seriousness, to most people is the idea that we can live life and go through it without any care in the world where money and stress are at agreement and we can deal with the rough patches as thought they never really happened at all. To me, comfortable has turned into a definition not of entirely feeling comfortable but literally being comfortable in who the person is, in my skin. It doesn’t have to really do with what is around me first off, it has to do with how the person that I am is able to stand and feel in the world around it and truthfully accept it.
We often associate happiness and comfort with the idea that if we strive for both of those ideals we won’t feel any pain anymore in our lives, the reason why when we struggle with a mental illness sometimes we find ourselves telling ourselves that we are never going to be happy, or that we are never going to be perfect if we can’t control our illness. The thing is, is that if we truly want to be comfortable and be happy, we have to accept pain, and at times, invite pain to come into our lives to make ourselves a better person. It is easier to say than actually allowing the pain in because we are programmed to run away from pain.
Have you ever heard of the saying ‘pain is inevitable, suffering is not’?
I sat in one of my group therapy sessions a few months ago and we were talking about pain and it was my time to share, and I realized that for a good month or so I had been coming in each day with the same story, complaining about the same things, and the only reason why I felt good each day was that I got 10 minutes to rant to people that understood me, who had the same so called problems that I was dealing with. Then the next day I would want to come back after a night of hell and negative self talk. It was a vicious cycle up until the day a therapist asked us, ‘Have you ever thought about making room for pain?’. To me that sounded like ‘Have you ever put down a date that you would like to die in your calendar?’ Everyone in my group looked at our therapist with a ‘Are you out of your mind?’ look.
The thing was, was that hers was our life saving question. As a species we go around trying to sway away from pain and hurt and heartbreak. None of those are good things but we forget that we need those types of experiences to evolve as a person. It is hard to understand, but to better the world, people die and inhumane and utterly horrible things happen to people on a daily basis that we have no control over. These experiences that we see on the news, that we hear about, that we experience ourselves are changing the world as soon as they happen. Pain happens and when it begins we can only make it better by comforting it and ourselves.
The idea of making room for pain is a brilliant idea because pain in our eyes is something that we should never welcome into our lives. When pain happens we approach it with anxiety, with over exuberant emotions, and our thoughts often think about pain in an ‘OMFG this hurts like no other’ or ‘I can’t believe I am so stupid for doing such a thing so that I am in this much pain!’ or ‘I can’t do anything about this pain so I am going to make myself feel better by battling it’. Pain is a mental hijacker and mental illnesses causes physical pain through self-harm as well as mental pain. To not have room for pain in our lives when pain is ready to enter makes us subject to catastrophe. I think we all have experienced this!
So you might be reading this and thinking, "that’s an interesting point of view, but I don’t think I can make room for pain since I have no idea when pain is going to come into my life!" GOOD POINT! Believe it or not, I do not have this concept down yet, but I believe in it firmly. We have to make room for accidents to happen, MISTAKES happen! We do not need to find a quick fix to most of our life problems. What we have to deal with on a daily basis is how we approach life. For me, I realized that instead of me caring about where I fit into the world and the people in the world I had to say with confidence one day, "You know what! I fit in between the Punk Rocker-Meditation Hawaiian-Dancer girl and the Academic, so I don’t know where I am going in life, but I am going to live in reality". Life can’t choose for us, we have to be part of life by giving life something that we have to offer it. Pain may be the big bad wolf, but success needs pain to become a success.
- Susan Page