“Pain is not a sign of weakness, but bearing it alone is a choice to grow weak.” ~Lori Deschene
There was a time in my life when I struggled to share my pain. I actually took great pride in how stubborn I had become. It wasn’t until I started looking within myself that these prideful attitudes started to shift. Actually, my whole life started to change.
Once I started my journey of self-discovery, I no longer wanted to deal with my pain by myself. I slowly reached out to others and asked them for help.
It was in asking for help and sharing my pain with others that I felt myself getting stronger.
I didn’t expect, however, that I’d need to ask for help repeatedly.
In August of 2006, I was with a small group of people inside a airplane hanger that was used as a classroom to give instruction for skydiving. Worn-out couches and old beanbag chairs formed a circle where we gathered. The décor on the walls was something you’d find in a local head shop that sold 60’s and 70’s paraphernalia.
A positive vibe filled the room, as a young instructor prepped us on the safety procedures needed for jumping out of the plane.
It had been sixteen years since I had made my first jump. When I shared this information with the instructor, she asked me, “What took you so long to come back?”
I didn’t respond out loud, but simply smiled. I wasn’t brave enough to explain why I had come back this time.
Initially, I jumped in the fall of 1990 as a way for me to turn my life over to a higher power; that jump marked the beginning of my inner journey.
Skydiving had helped me change my life from despair to hope. For me, it wasn’t about seeking adventure or adrenaline; it was about letting go and finding myself. I had no intention of making a second jump.
But I eventually discovered that my first jump was only the beginning of my journey.
Why did it take me sixteen years to come back? Pride and stubbornness kept me away. I didn’t want to admit that things in my life had become difficult. When I did, I felt that I needed to return to skydiving to help me, once again, let go.
Yes, I can be a very stubborn person. Letting go doesn’t always come easily for me. Despite the number of years I’ve been journeying and evolving, I still resist change. It is hard for me to accept that change is hard work and it requires a willingness to let go—often.
I thought that once I committed myself to walking a new path, everything in my life would just fall in place, and life would finally “be perfect.” At the beginning of my journey, I tried to only adhere to “positive” philosophies and like so many others, I immersed myself with anything and everything that was uplifting.
For the most part, this approach worked well for me. I had many “blissful” moments and personal discoveries that reinforced my new beliefs. I wanted to somehow contain this “blissfulness” like a Red Bull energy drink, and have it at my disposal. I wanted to feel good all the time.
But in June of 2003, my dad died. He had been battling cancer for several years. We didn’t have a close relationship when I was growing up, but after he got sick, we started to spend more time together. Unfortunately, our time ran out, leaving me with countless unanswered questions.
Overwhelmed with grief, I found myself reaching for an old remedy that I’d often depended on to numb my pain—alcohol. I had abused it most of my teenage years and into my early twenties.
The night my dad died, I sat at a bar and got drunk. When I got home I became very sick. I felt like a fool. Self-pity flooded me. How could this of happened to me? All the personal progress and growth I had made during the past thirteen years seemed to just go out the window. I was in a dark place.
A few more unpleasant episodes followed that night, but by the summer of 2006, I was ready to reach out again. I wanted to get out of this hole I had fallen into. Sky diving a second time made perfect sense; making another jump was my way of starting over.
Sometimes, I just want my path to be easy, to be nothing but bliss. I still have a tendency to think that when the road gets tough, I must be doing something wrong. It usually comes back to my thinking that I am in control of everything, but the truth is I am not.
I can make new choices, I can take bold actions, but I can’t control how life unfolds. I am still learning this valuable and difficult lesson. I can be a slow learner at times. It helps to remind myself that through some of my darkest moments, I have grown the most.
If there are any words I could share to offer as encouragement to fellow travelers, they would be, first: Be good to yourself when your journey gets rough. Remember, it’s the rough times, the painful times that will bring about real change. Pain is a great motivator.
Second, whether in a community like Tiny Buddha or with a close friend, reach out, share your pain, don’t isolate yourself. Know that you are not alone in your struggles.
Lastly, remember that it can change your life if you let others in. By sharing your pain with someone else you will grow stronger and so will they.
Photo by snapper sam