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When Pain Becomes the Teacher: Part 3

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Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Being Softer With Myself and With Others

When you’re fine and things are moving along in a fairly normal fashion, it’s sometimes hard to have patience with either yourself or others. We expect so much of ourselves all the time, and we place these impossible standards on others also, including our mates, siblings and children.

Being in pain, I had to learn to take care of myself differently, to have greater gentleness toward myself and what I was going through. I also began to understand what others go through when they are dealing with illness, injury, loss or other hardships.

Everyone, including me, is always and only doing the very best we all can with what’s in front of us and what’s inside of us. We can never know what someone else is carrying, either in terms of physical pain or in terms of emotional stress.

Having to live with less of everything – less strength, less energy, less brainpower – taught me to be kinder to myself and kinder to others. Living with pain taught me how to give myself and others more of a break.

Appreciating the Little Things

I remember sitting in my house when my injury was most acute, my body burning and aching, and noticing a ball of dust in the corner of the room. I realized that, in the past, I would have just gotten up and cleaned it. Right then, that action was more than my body could handle.

I glanced around the room and saw all the things I wasn’t cleaning or couldn’t keep up with. It was more than a little distressing to not be able to do the simplest things, and I realized how much we take the smallest activities for granted.

We assume we will always be able to do what we’re doing now physically, and never dream that we might be hugely compromised for a while or for a very long time.

I began to appreciate how much I had taken for granted in the past. Brushing my teeth, picking up a plate of food or driving more than 10 minutes used to seem like nothing, but were now painful, slow and laborious.

I realized how amazing life really is and how much I looked forward to regaining any capacity for doing these things with less pain and more mobility. I remembered how I may have complained in the past about having to do something minor that now seemed like a privilege to do. It was very humbling.

Being in pain, while I would prefer not to have had to go through it, nor would I wish it on anyone, nevertheless taught me a great deal about slowing down, being more present with life as it is right now, letting go of trying to completely control how my healing would unfold, how to say no when I really needed to, how to find my voice to speak up for myself and ask for help when it was appropriate, how to be softer and more forgiving toward myself and others, and how to be appreciative of the smallest things in life which sometimes are the most precious.

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Thinkstock photo via Maria Kuznetsova.

Originally published: November 14, 2017
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