The Pain Won’t Stop Until You Accept What Is

“Accept what is, let go of what was, and have faith in what will be.” ~Sonia Ricotti

Life is sometimes ridiculously hard. It sucks. It rips out your heart and your entrails, spins them around the room, and stuffs them back in unceremoniously through the hole from which they were ripped.

And it expects you to smile and carry on. People expect you to carry on. Because that is what we think people do.

I felt like this a few years ago when my marriage ended. Luckily, I had good people around me. They didn’t expect that from me.

I, on the other hand, expected me to get right back on that horse. I had to keep going, to be stronger. To not let it affect me that much. So I berated myself. I got angry with myself. I hated myself (because that was exactly what I needed, right?)

The thing is, when you are in the thick of it, you don’t know what you need. You know there is pain and you want it to stop. Please, please, just stop!

And then there is the anger. This is the hurt you don’t understand yet. Hurt without compassion, hurt without direction.

It explodes. It finds a way, a way out, somehow. Eventually.

My expectations were so high. Or should I say, it was my hopes that were high. It had to stop.

I couldn’t function until it stopped. I couldn’t forget until it stopped. And I wanted to forget so much.

I wanted to forget how I felt now. I wanted to forget how I felt before—because then I wouldn’t miss it so much. I wanted to forget the good things she did because remembering caused pain.

Conversely, I wanted to forget the bad things she did because those memories caused pain, too.

In addition, I wanted to forget every small little detail of the stupid things I’d said and done that I wished I hadn’t, the things I went over and over and over in my head. Those sharp, jagged memories I just couldn’t switch off, each one like a fishhook being carefully placed beneath my skin, then mercilessly torn from its grip.

I scurried desperately for refuge inside my head. I stayed in there. Outside were people.

People would want to talk to me, to make eye contact. I was incapable of either. I was scared.

I was frightened and ashamed and I didn’t want to see caring in someone else’s eyes. I didn’t want to hear kind words. I didn’t know how I would respond.

I didn’t know if I would break down in tears, descending to that place I hated where I was a pathetic, whining fool who brought it all on himself. Or alternatively, to the place where I got so angry at how I was treated that I didn’t want anyone to see the look in my eyes. To see the raw anger and furious energy that burned inside of me.

I didn’t want to be seen. Being seen asked questions. Questions I wasn’t ready to answer.

It was like a living volcano raging inside me. I went to counseling because I needed an outlet. I needed to get it out.

The hope inside of me that we would get back together restricted me from talking to people close to me. “What if we got back together?” What if in my pain and my hurt I said things about her, how would people see her when she came back? That would make it difficult for her.

In retrospect, I think I knew it was over, deep down, but I was still fighting what was. This false hope also gave me a reason not to open up or face things.

I look back with gratitude that I somehow found the wisdom in the bottom of that cold, dark place to take that step, to actually do something.

All of my life I had bottled up feelings. I had been strong. I had controlled my emotions.

I wasn’t a walking unfeeling marble statue. I did let loose some emotions. But I never really fully let go.

I never allowed myself to feel it all completely. I never surrendered. I was always fighting reality.

When I finally relinquished my hold on trying to control everything, it all changed. I allowed it to fall, to break free. I held nothing back.

It was here, in this moment, I finally grasped that accepting where we are is the most important step in any change process.

It was the only way through any journey of pain, to allow yourself to feel it without judgment. From the maelstrom of confusion, darkness, hail, wind, and rain in my mind, the storm started to pass.

It was like waking up lying on a beach after a shipwreck. Battered and bruised, feeling empty inside, lost, lonely, not knowing where you are, where you are going or how. But in the center, deep inside, there is a calm. Something that whispers, “The worst is over.”

Suddenly, I was able to sleep again. I woke each day without that feeling of readying myself for battle. My food tasted better.

I still had the hurt, but it was dulled. I still had the memories, but the sharpness around the edges began to blur a little. I had still to figure out what my life was going to be like without her in it, but I had survived.

All of this I allowed when I surrendered.

When I stopped fighting reality my mind calmed, and I understood that what has happened outside of me “is what it is.” I cannot change that, only how I respond. Accept.

My prolonged and persistent pain was coming from my refusal to accept this. When I stopped fighting what was, when I stopped trying to fight against the waves rather than letting them carry me to shore, I finally found peace. Surrender.

The reality wasn’t different. I still had to deal with my new situation, with my new life. But the storm in my mind had quieted. It was easier to see.

What I learned here wasn’t just about a break-up. It wasn’t just about dealing with pain. For me, this was a massive life lesson.

There are still many times when storm clouds amass in my mind. I remember not to fight the reality, whatever is going on in my life. I remind myself, “This too shall pass.”

Everything is transient. Everything ends. Good and bad.

So I wait during the bad times. I watch, I observe, I learn. I focus on what I can control and I don’t resist and fight what I can’t.

And I remember to cherish the good moments because they too shall pass. Life is so much richer when we surrender to it rather than fighting it. It all starts with accepting what is.

About Keith Clarke

Keith works with fellow members of Generation X helping them get the most out of their relationships and careers. He is a Certified Business & Life Coach and lives in Ireland. He is the proud father of two teenagers and he sings and plays guitar in his band in his spare time. You can learn more about Keith at www.lifecoachx.com.

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