I had a post-it note on my computer screen for the longest time that said “run into your pain, find your power.” I can’t remember which inspirational, authentic guru said it – Brene? Oprah? Glennon? (They’re all wonderful, but they also tend to blur together in my mind.)
What those words mean to me is that, counterintuitively, emotional pain is not something to be feared or avoided. Pain is meant to teach us something – we’re supposed to listen to it and even, in some cases, go toward it so we can understand something better or grow and develop.
Emotionally painful experiences are not fun. I’ve been known to call them by the acronym AFOG, which is short for “Another F@#*ing Opportunity for Growth.” The only way to grow is through some degree of pain, which is another reason to run toward it instead of away. Who doesn’t want to grow and get stronger?!
Have you ever heard someone say, after a beloved family pet dies, “We’re never getting another dog. It’s just too painful when you lose them.” I am pretty sure I’ve even said this myself. It’s truly so difficult to lose a cherished furry family member – it does make you not want to open yourself up to that kind of heart pain again.
But without the pain, we wouldn’t have had all the joy, love and connection that came first as we shared our lives with the pure souls known as dogs (or cats, or any kind of pet that you can love and lose).
The pain that comes from losing someone we love is a tangible reminder of the love that we had. It’s always better to love and lose than not love at all – no one will ever convince me otherwise. When life hurts, when we feel the sting of loss and unbearable waves of grief and other forms of pain – it just means we’re doing it right.
Fostering kittens is a joy and delight right up until the day you give them back to the shelter to be adopted. Then, the loss and the empty sadness of missing them just cuts right through you. We’ve loved more than a dozen kitty fosters now, and each time they leave, Zoe and I typically cry for days (and we will again, this time next week). Why would we open ourselves up to this kind of pain? Because they’re worth it. And because the pain means we’re doing it right.
In a totally different arena of our lives, hosting an intercultural exchange student is a life-changing, world-expanding and family-enriching experience that we highly recommend any chance we get. We loved every minute of our Thailand year with our beloved Napa. We also loved our too-short Germany week with our dear Verena (V’s time with us should have been far longer, but we were robbed due to the Coronavirus).
Each time we took one of our girls to the airport for the last time, we sobbed our hearts out. We will always miss having them here with us as family. Saying goodbye to someone you love really hurts! Of course we’ll visit our girls in the future, but knowing we’ll never live together as a family again aches like nothing I’ve ever known. But do I ever regret opening our hearts and lives to these amazing young women? Never, not even for a minute.
Parenting is a perfect example of this concept that pain means we’re doing it right. The closer and more bonded we are with our kids, the harder it is to leave them for any length of time and the more it will break our hearts when they grow up and fly away, leaving us behind to miss them horribly. But should we love them any less to avoid the pain of them eventually growing up and moving out? Of course not. If anything, we should love them even more!
If you’re hurting right now during this Coronavirus pandemic – if you’re missing family and friends, fearful about future uncertainty or just feeling stressed and sad – you’re not alone. I try to tell myself that this pain is a reminder that we’re doing life right. We are hurting because we have people to love, experiences to miss, and because we CARE about our world and the people in it.
When could caring ever be wrong? Keep on caring and loving, even if it hurts. Don’t lose hope. Always look for opportunities to love, serve, give back, pay forward and live a kind and open life. Yes, it hurts to open our hearts sometimes – but it’s worth it. It’s always worth it. Keep telling yourself that it hurts because you’re doing it right!
Sending you love and positive energy during these uncertain times. If this made sense or resonated with you, will you let me know in the comments or over on Facebook? As always, I appreciate you!