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Dealing with pain in paradise…There is so much to learn from the dark

I spent months planning the dream family vacation, instead of Thanksgiving. It had everything...beautiful and pristine beaches, zip-lining through jungles, adventures to secret islands, and a fair amount of opportunities to connect with wildlife in humane and natural settings.  In the most boring story ever, about half-way through, I slipped on the slightly out-of-balance staircase, and landed on my thumb in a super awkward position.  I spent the next 36-ish hours wondering if it was broken, waiting on the jungle doctor to open, and putting all my tools to the test in an effort to not be a complete brat.  

There is magic is solitude and silence...

My go-to defense mechanism in healing is solitude, and shutting myself off.  While traveling, this modality wasn't available, and I could hear the angry voice of my uncertain pain wanting to rear its ugly head.  I had put pressure on myself for the perfect vacation, and my self-inflicted expectations made it "impossible" for me to miss a moment.  

I was quiet, which is rare. I had gone from dancing and singing my way through beaches and jungles to fighting back tears, with laser-focused thoughts on my swelling and throbbing left thumb. Even though my family offered their support, I felt helpless for not being able to complete the most basic of tasks, and refused to voice my needs.

I observed myself feeling the most annoyed ever, at EVERY thing.  And then I would be annoyed at myself for being so annoyed, quite the cycle.  There were so many voices, from the strangers and family around me, to the flurry in my mind that craved perfection in every moment. I took myself on a walk, and put myself in time-out. I found a little alcove of natural trees and planted myself down.  From here I could sit, watch the ocean, and for the first time I exhaled completely. Things didn't immediately get better, but I was able to find a few moments of ease by giving myself permission to retreat and feel.  

Here's what I learned...

  • Pain can turn even the most beautiful day in paradise into a living hell. There's definitely an argument for "it is what you do with it" AND sometimes this truth is ok to temporarily experience. 

  • Rigid expectation can be the thief of joy.  Holding on tightly create resistance. Magic typically unfolds in mysterious ways, stay open to all forms of miracles.

  • Pain craves solitude, which if not kept in-check can turn into isolation.  It's as equally important to have a come back, as it is to have a retreat.   

  • Pain can create jealousy of those who are joyous.  Whew...this was major for me to experience first hand.  I was able to find compassion for those in my life who had created stories around me, and forgiveness for their misperceptions.   

  • Pain offers opportunity for gratitude. It's taken me years, and many failed attempts to recognize this lesson.  This time I found space to truly slow down and be in the moment. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t go surfing or do whatever else.  Being there was enough. 

  • Not all pains are as visible and obvious as my bruised thumb knuckle. Always be kind.

We tend to shy away from the experiences in life that are uncertain, painful, or unclear. Rarely, do we run directly into the haunted house, despite what the movies tell us.  Darkness pulls out our insecurities, reveals the cracks in our carefully curated armor, and it can feel icky to feel. Pretty much all modalities of religion, spirituality, or self-help speak of the necessity of contrasting experiences as part of the life game.  The trick is figuring out how to ride and observe those waves, without losing touch of the pure miracle that is life. While I don't recommend almost breaking your thumb in order to find appreciation, I do encourage you to try something new, different or scary. The best rewards are often just on the other side. 


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