*If you are sick and tired of hearing people tell you to “put the past behind you” or “get over it” or “move on with your life already”, I want to ensure you that this is not the message of this post.
Today, I had a small epiphany. I was thinking about what life would be like if I wasn’t sad, if I no longer carried the pain with me. In that moment, I felt a twinge of sadness about not being sad. I felt grief about living life without pain. I felt fearful about living with the faith necessary to open up my life. It was as if I might be saying goodbye to a long-term relationship, a dysfunctional relationship, but a relationship nonetheless.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like the pain. I push through it. I will my way through life with gusto despite it. I want nothing more than to move past it. But I have inner parts. And I may have an inner part who isn’t ready to let go of the familiar.
There is a phrase: “the evil you know versus the evil you don’t”. I think it sums up the recovery journey well. When pain becomes familiar, letting go of that pain can cause more of it, at least at first. And recovery doesn’t feel like jumping off a cliff. It feels like jumping off multiple successive cliffs. So when faced with one more change, one more risk to take, it might feel better to go with what doesn’t feel good at all, because at least we know it. In this journey, pain may be the only thing that isn’t new.
I remember when I thought life was about creating an environment of familiarity. I thought that if nothing changed, if life was as predictable as possible, I could “survive”. I could “make it through”. I thought that was as good as life was going to get for me. I thought there was nothing more I could shoot for. If I could get through the day without a major “surprise”, it qualified as a good day.
But I have learned that this recovery journey is not about stability, familiarity and predictability. It is a rare day when I wake up without something new to consider, process or try out. And just as I get used to it, it changes. And this, apparently, is life when we choose the path of growth and recovery.
So, when I have one of those days, I can sit with my pain. I can even enjoy the familiarity of it. But then, I have to remember that the pain doesn’t have to stay forever. I can choose to feel it, let it go and move on. Of course, there will be more pain. There always is when trauma runs deep. But living in it all the time is not necessary, unless I need time with what I know.
And one day, the balance will shift. The pain will be less familiar and the freedom will be more familiar. It will bring more happiness and presence. It won’t be there all the time, but the pain will be the visitor. The pain will come, but then it will go. And that is what this journey is about. It isn’t about a momentary shift that turns our lives upside down in an instant (while that does happen). It is about moving the balance, one small change at a time, until the unfamiliar becomes the familiar, the unknown becomes the known. It is about shifting our human experience over time.
So after a while, I will know a new familiar.
And I will welcome it.