I’m afraid of someone using a circular handsaw to cut open my skull.
But I’m more afraid of dying, so if the choice is certain death or brain surgery, I would choose brain surgery.
But I’m more afraid of being eaten by big-ass dinosaurs, so if a genetically modified hybrid Jurassic World dinosaur was chasing me, I would totally jump if the alternative was being Indominus Rex’s lunch.
Broken down in the most primitive way possible, human beings are motivated by just two things:
- Feeling pleasure
- Avoiding pain
Psychologists say most people devote more energy to avoiding bad feelings than chasing good ones.
I believe them.
It’s always the same.
Whether I’m standing poolside, on the edge of a boat, or on a sandy beach, and I know the water is especially cold (which I realize is subjective), it always takes me a little longer to brave the plunge.
The water generally validates my fears as my body revolts. I lose my breath a little. My male extremities disappear like a sick David Copperfield prank. I may or may not lose consciousness for a second. All I know is I want to sprint to warmth and dryness because swimming is supposed to be fun and not take your penis away.
However. Inevitably. In what feels like a few years, but is probably only a few minutes, your body temperature begins to regulate itself. Your breathing normalizes. Your body parts are usually all in place.
Depending on wind and air temperature, your body often adjusts so well to the water that it begins to feel almost like a warm bath relative to the chilly air.
I was afraid to take the plunge. I was afraid of the discomfort.
But I always adapt. All of us do.
Change is uncomfortable. But we always adapt.
I allow myself to bathe in the discomfort, sometimes because there’s no other choice. But the truth hits you pretty fast: This was the only way to adapt.
We like to run from discomfort. We’re smart. We know that putting ourselves in certain situations, or subjecting ourselves to certain experiences are likely to cause discomfort. Sometimes, intense pain.
And we run.
But at some point, we realize the only way through it, is through it.
We allow ourselves to feel.
And God, it sucks.
But we adapt. We always adapt. And then some uncomfortable things no longer make us uncomfortable. Certain painful things don’t hurt as much.
Because we’re, just, stronger now.
So, Give Me The Fire
“Pain is sometimes an indication we need to set boundaries, learn to say no more often, or take better care of ourselves; but sometimes it just means that it’s human to hurt, and we need to let ourselves go through it.” – Lori Deschene
I don’t believe in fate, per se. I don’t believe necessarily that “everything happens for a reason,” because little kids get cancer. So, no.
But there is no question that enormous value can be gained from the horrible things we experience.
Maybe there were parents who weren’t very attentive to their child, and were on the fast track to divorce, but then their young child was diagnosed with cancer, and everything changed.
Maybe a sick child can teach you how to prioritize things that really matter in life.
Maybe overcoming adversity can teach them the life skills needed to handle future challenges.
Maybe the entire experience was a galvanizing moment for a struggling couple who finally learned how to choose love and practice gratitude.
Everything may not happen for a reason. But if you ask the right questions, you can always pinpoint the positive results of negative events.
If I have to choose between living with the wool pulled over my eyes, or feeling growing pains, then damn it, I choose growing pains.
I choose truth.
You fight for what you love. It doesn’t matter if it hurts.
You find out what it’s worth, and you let the rest burn.
Ashes from the flames, the truth is what remains.
Carry On, Warrior
That’s the name of Glennon Doyle Melton’s first book.
Her second book, Love Warrior, released Tuesday.
I caught a couple quotes from her recently that mattered enough for me to save them for a moment such as this.
Glennon said this in a recent Facebook post:
“I spent the first half of my life being afraid of pain. I found a million easy buttons to transport myself out of pain: Food, booze, sex, shopping, snark, scrolling.
“I was afraid of the wrong thing.
“I’m no longer afraid of pain — I’m now afraid of the easy buttons.
“Because I’ve learned that all my courage and wisdom I need to become the woman I want to be is inside of my pain. When you transport yourself out of it, you miss your transformation.
“First the pain, then the rising.
“You can do hard things, Warrior. You were born to do this.”
You will NEVER hear me celebrate my divorce. Not ever.
I failed my wife and son. I haven’t decided yet who I failed more.
It remains the worst and most painful thing that has ever happened to me.
Which raises something of a philosophical moral dilemma: Would I rather be married still walking through this world oblivious to the harm I cause others, to my wife’s persistent discomfort, and without the ability to help my son grow into a man capable of understanding what it takes to succeed in his human relationships?
Or… can I accept that this is what had to happen for me to arrive in a place where I have a real chance to be a decent human being moving forward?
Blissful ignorance and comfort? Or tormented enlightenment and discomfort?
I don’t know how to say that I’m happy my marriage ended, because that’s not how I feel.
I would NEVER say that I think my son’s life is better with his parents apart.
But I know how to say that I’m genuinely grateful for the opportunity to experience the kind of trauma required to instill real change.
I NEEDED to hurt.
I NEEDED the fear.
I NEEDED the anxiety.
I NEEDED to break.
I NEEDED to cry.
That was my path to right now. There could be no other.
I don’t know that anyone captures the true essence of the human condition in the midst of life’s most challenging moments as well as Glennon.
I wrote about my intense admiration for her in a post last month. And it’s because I am magnetically drawn to people like her — people who accept responsibility for their life choices, who don’t blame others for their problems, who courageously admit their flaws for the sake of helping and encouraging others, and are the ones willing to stand up and raise their hands to say: “This is what it’s REALLY like when I’m not pretending to be who I think everyone wants me to be!”
Because then we all get to feel a little more “normal” afterward. It takes the brave people admitting things for us to realize we aren’t the only ones with those same feelings and fears.
It takes courageous people to teach us how to live courageously.
“It’s a beautiful lesson for each of us who takes on the responsibility and privilege of partnering and parenting: Do it authentically.
“I asked Melton if it’s daunting to embark on such a public life — book tour, speaking gigs — on the heels of announcing her separation.
“‘I’m used to going out all busted up,’ she said. ‘It’s where I’m most comfortable. Now, more than ever, people don’t want shiny, perfect.
“‘Lovely and easy and shiny people are really comfortable talking about their problems when they’re over,’ she continued. ‘We’re not allowed to struggle until after we’ve done our victory lap. That’s fine, but it’s less helpful than hearing from people in the trenches. How do I show up in the during? Maybe this all happened to me so I can go out there and be seen in the during.’”
I know exactly what you mean.
A version of this post was previously published on MustBeThisTallToRide and is republished here with permission from the author.
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Photo credit: Carl Richards – New York Times