Updated: Feb 11, 2022
I have spent my life trying to avoid pain...and oddly enough, all I have been really successful in doing is creating more pain.
Apparently, my solutions for life’s problems has been and appears will likely always be, to avoid the pain that comes to open me up and teach me things. My emotional equivalent is to stop, drop and roll into a tight little ball and pray that whatever it is that has come for me, will pass me by, leaving me emotionally and physically unscathed. The biggest problem with this strategy is that it works...sometimes. It works just often enough for me to believe that it is an effective strategy. So I use it to avoid feeling and what always (not sometimes, not maybe but fucking always) happens is that I somehow create more pain in my mad rush to avoid it.
Getting sober provided me a new and rare opportunity to begin turning toward my pain, in fact that is what all 12 step programs are at their core - a methodology to slowly and steadily move towards all the shit we have run from the whole of our lives. It is in this turn toward our pain that we get to experience a great freedom. A freedom that our minds and hearts have searched the world over for...something that rocks us to the very core of our being. As we haltingly begin to move toward undoing all the various and sundry ways we attempt to flee pain, we begin to see that we have never, ever actually attempted to just be with the pain.
What I have learned over and over and over again is that there are no ways to escape pain that do not increase the magnitude of pain or length of experience. All exits strategies come with a higher price tag. And I have made bad deal after bad deal and am likely (fuck, I totally know that I am) doing a couple of shady fucking deals right now all in the misguided attempt to avoid pain.
I am leaving for Montana to see my son today. Our relationship has been fraught with a great deal of pain...leveled both ways. I have not been the best mother to him despite having that intention every fucking moment of his life. He has not been the best son to me either. He, with his issues and addictions, has made life more painful for all of us. Taking out all his doubt, frustration and pain onto all of those who love him the most. It was toxic. It sucked. But it was familiar.
I find myself this morning in that old familiar place again where I embark on a new journey towards pain. I know this weekend with him will be painful. We are going to be addressing our combined past - he is charged with owning all of his shit, and me being asked to do the same. I am literally flying towards pain. Towards a great deal of shit from the past. And I would be a liar if I didn’t say that I was scared. I am. My stomach is doing flip flops and I so wish that I had someone to lean on, someone to hold my hand and drape an arm around my shoulders. But this is a mother’s solo journey. Towards the son she loves with all that she is and toward the man-boy who is prepared to meet her at an ever increasing even strength.
But I have learned through time and grace that all the energy I have invested in getting away from pain, never really provided any relief. Nope. Just more pain. And over the past few years in particular, I have been forced, and I do mean like a hostage taken against her will, to sit with my pain, to be with it, watch it morph and grow and proliferate and then settle down like a cat circling a soft pillow for a long overdue nap...the pain finds its place within my chest and instead of intensifying into something that will certainly kill me, it dissipates, leaving me tired from the fight but bare enough to have no further strategy or defense to feeling the loss, the fear, the hurt, the agony. And it hasn’t killed me yet.
What I have learned that all that energy I have put into resisting pain, is changed into something far more positive and wonderful. My willingness to feel the pain brings me closer to the people I love, the people who matter most to me, the people who make this crazy fucking life worth living.
And I am given more energy, it is literally freed up and becomes available for me to use for life giving purposes for myself and those about me.
My present becomes the pain-less present...literally. I am present with all the feelings that I was so sure would kill me, embarrass me, hurt me, maim me, curtail me. And I learn that all that has ever done is rob me of the energy to move closer to that which scares me. And then I am doing battle in a one down position, having less of what I need, instead of more. And that there is a great freedom in stopping the endless resistance to the pains of life. A gentle moving toward the pain in an effort to come to know it better, and that allows for me to experience a pain-less present.
I am not sure how I got it so fucked up. But I did. And today as I am up at the ass crack of dawn, writing all this down, I can see that the pain has always been the gift. This relationship with my son, the most amazing, fucking terrifying gift. Men and males have been life’s painful lesson bringer for me. I have had some tragic things delivered at the hands of men. And those things, those painful events, almost killed me several times over. And they affected every relationship I have ever had, to include the one with the son I brought into this world. I cannot unsee it now. I see how my pain and trauma caused some of this with my own child. And I am no longer afraid to face that and that brings me great freedom. If I can own it to myself, perhaps I might be able to own it with him and together we can out grow the pain of our mutual past and create a more loving present.
I have gone to visit him many time since I sent him away last August. And I have been filled with a weird mixture of fear, excitement and dread...but today, today I welcome in all the feelings, banning none. And I think, I am never sure, that because of my willingness to allow for a whole experience, I get to experience a pain-less present. And I see the gift in that. I feel it. And I am more willing than ever to move toward it.
It is a new way to live. To not studiously avoid my pain. But to allow it to come in its time and let it wash over me. To allow it to change me, alter me and pierce me. I can be impaled by pain today and I know that the wounds will heal. And this relationship with my son has really become Exhibit A in this evolution. This is our gift. This is our present...pained less.
I can’t wait to wrap my arms around this boy who is barely a boy anymore and look him in the eye and tell him how much I love him. And I am ok with making it awkward. That is my amends for all the times that I let misunderstanding and hurt and pain stand between us. I can do that no longer. I am wiling to make it weird or whatever it is I need to make it so that he knows without reservation or doubt that I love the fuck out of him, no matter what, always.
And in my wiliness to feel the pain that is attendant in all loving relationships, I move closer to the reality of love itself. The resistance gone from my soul, and in its stead, a fearless and intrepid mother warrior remains in a posture of quiet surrender...allowing for the pain-less present to be our new reality. Our new path. I am no longer looking for the exit. I am simply willing to be present and feel whatever comes up. And in so doing, I pray that I make it safer for him to do this also...that I may offer up to him a more pain-less present. It is truly the best gift I could ever give him, or anyone.
I picked this photo to remind me of how much our love used to be uncomplicated...and because I can see the joy and the pain in both of us...