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Searching for Pain...or Joy?

All day everyday this is how I spend my time. It is how all of us spend our time when you boil it all down. Most days are a mixture of both. I may be searching for pain in my love life, while searching for joy in everything else. There are a few blissful days where the whole day I just search for joy, and I find it. Over and over and over again. Those are the best days.


Then there are days when I search for pain. And guess what? I find that too.


And what I have found is that I seem hardwired to search for pain. That is my default. What hurts? And is it cancer? What do I fear? Will it come true? What evidence can I piecemeal together to prove it up? That all is lost and I am doomed.


Sadly, I still do this far too often. My life can be splendid, as it is most of the time, and I am still out there searching for pain when joy surrounds.


I have gotten better. I spend far more of my time searching for joy and less for pain than ever before. But this default setting is hard to re-set and I think that I will always be the first one inventorying the situation for where I get screwed, dumped, duped or left.

And at first reading, that might make one sad. But I have come to accept that this skill, this ability of mine to search out the root causes, in myself and others, has saved me likely more than it has ruined me. It is hard living on high alert all the time, but that is who I have become due to biology, my environment and my experiences due to both. I am this person who really enjoys the joy, but can’t stop searching for the pain.


To be clear there are examples in every area of my life. All the time. But my love life has been the area that has plagued me the most. Illusive and hard won, long fought. I think the words that I use to describe it are clear indicators some of the reasons that has been my experience...I do see that. Sometimes I wish I didn’t...but I do. I always see my part, maybe not immediately, but this inventory skill has gotten me far in this life and it has now become ingrained. I am constantly, somewhat obsessively, inventorying each interaction, each debacle, each success with an eye towards my part. What did I do? What did I say? How did I react?

Once I am clear on what happened and how I responded (or reacted, it varies) I can begin to see how I could have done it differently.


This is usually the source of most of my pain. Although, I am happy to report that I come up short a lot less than I used to. I do not screw things up nearly as often, and I can frequently stop the train from leaving the grand central station of my mouth...most of the time.


There are still a few people on this planet that can cause me to bypass my practice of restraint...but they are few and their hold over me has lessened over the years.


What I have realized in all this living is that my search for pain, isn’t because I actually want pain. I am not a masochist. My search for pain is my controlling natures way of trying to avoid pain. If I can see it coming, then perhaps I can do something to alter its course and short circuit all that pain. It works, for the most part. Except for the part that means that I am living on high alert all the time, my capacity for joy diffused and distracted. I can see trouble coming, but that foresight often comes with a price tag, a discount if you will, on the joy available to be experienced.

It took me this many years to realize this...

I believe we are always inventorying for pain or joy. It is really up to us to see that this is what we do, and then if we don’t like the percentages, to make adjustments, alterations.

The best example I have of what I am talking about comes not from my own experience but that of a close friend. Her first pregnancy wasn’t viable. Her numbers did not multiply like they were supposed to and she spent eight weeks mired in doctors and tests and miserable. Everyday it seemed that there was new hope, only to be dashed upon the results of yet another test. In the end, she miscarried and was appropriately devastated.


After some time, she became pregnant again. The well meaning doctors prescribed lots of tests and appointments to follow her pregnancy closely all with the idea to help avoid the outcome of the last one. But my friend, being a wise and intelligent (and also very spiritual) refused all the fancy tests and appointments and said this:


“Last time I was pregnant and miserable for eight weeks and then I miscarried. This time, I want to be pregnant and happy. And if I miscarry again, at least I will have spent the time pregnant and happy”


She searched for the joy. Me, I would have likely been in that office every single day, subjecting myself to more tests, all with the futile belief that any of result was really up to me at all. In truth, things happen in life and we are only marginally involved. Tangentially able to effectuate meaningful change that will alter the inevitable outcome.

But I have learned from her example. She, when fear loomed large, when expectation and desire was at its highest, she searched for and inventoried for joy, not pain. Sure she lived every day with a fear of the possible, hell maybe even the likely. But she persevered. She instead, turned her attention to the joy in her life. She was pregnant, again, and that was reason enough to be happy.

She stayed pregnant the whole time and has a beautiful daughter. While she regrets the first experience and its attendant pain, she made peace with the fact that for reasons beyond her comprehension, that first pregnancy was not salvageable, not by her and not by modern medicine.


My friend, she took control over what she actually had control over: her attitude, aligning that to seek the positive and joyful aspects of life even though the outcome uncertain. The results not promised, no guarantees.


I learned so much from her...continue to learn so much from her. She is one of those magical people who has learned that there is far more to be gained by seeking the joy, even when pain threatens with fire breath that envelopes opportunities knocking at the door.


We all have a choice. Every minute of every day. What are we searching for? Pain or joy. Because we are sure to find it either way. Sure, there are things that we can do to assure a better result. But often there isn’t. There is only the brave and valiant choice to be happy in the face of the burgeoning storm.


Inventorying for pain or joy. It is how we spend our time. It is how we live our lives. And the hard truth is that no matter how accurate I am about what seeds are being sowed, I, in the end, have so very little control of the final outcome. So I might as well be happy, find the joy, relish in the life that is so abundantly mine. Anything else, seems, at least to me, a waste of life. A waste of a chance to be happy. The ingredients for pain and joy are always there, in every moment of every day. So it seems fitting that I can decide how I want to spend my time, searching for joy? Or searching for pain. The choice is always ours.




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