Pain and peace

5/26/13

Hey Kiddo,

Got another tip for you.

Her tool bag with the side pocket of harsh insults… you know how much they hurt, right?  She is quite talented at finding that remark that hurts more than her beatings… because the bruises and broken skin eventually fade… but the insults dig into your soul and fester there until you finally figure out how to heal them.  And this process takes much longer than the contusions from getting smacked into the wall or the scabs in the perfect shape of her nails where she dug them into your skin until you bled.  Those will fade… the insults you will carry with you for a long time.

Here’s the thing.  You’re going to realize just how painful that tool is and you’re going to forge your own.  You’re going to use words to hurt and your excuse is that this is acceptable because you didn’t physically harm them.  You’ll tell yourself that you’re “just venting” when you use them against people you care about.  You will actually believe that an apology is enough of a salve to heal the soul-wound.

I’m asking you to let go of the insults.  Yeah, I know what that means.  Last entry I wrote to you about putting down the armor.  Now I’m asking you to put down a weapon.  You must think I’m insane.  I’m suggesting that it’s possible to be armorless and weaponless and still survive.  In fact, you will do more than survive… you will eventually find that the strength, resiliency, and connection you forge with others will allow you to do more than survive.  You will thrive.  And grow.  And know peace.

Here’s where you think of that old saying you made up:  “I’ll get enough peace when I’m dead.  Why pollute my life with it?”  Because peace doesn’t mean stagnation… and it doesn’t mean passiveness… and it doesn’t mean weakness… all those things you think it means are based on your terribly skewed upbringing.

Peace is more like stillness than stagnation.  Like the stillness of a deep ocean.  On the surface, it is as still as glass.  But deep underneath, the current moves strong and with purpose.  Peace is acceptance of where you are and who you are – but also an acknowledgement that you can be more… eventually.  Peace is accepting your limitations and the fact that you make mistakes… and that you will continue to do so for the rest of your life.  Big mistakes.  Because if you aren’t making big mistakes, you aren’t trying hard enough.

So let’s get back to those insults.  Here’s the thing… you’re going to use them to hurt others without grasping the degree of pain you will cause yourself.  One day you will start to dig into the shit you have lived through and you will “unpack” the feelings you crammed down into a tiny sealed grave and buried in a large abandoned lot filled with countless other caskets brimming with a history of hidden feelings.  You’re going to process them (a fucking long and painful chore that seems to never end) and you will start to forgive yourself and others.  But the insults and the physical pain you caused… those will hang tough for a long time.

Do you know why?  Because buried beneath those caskets of hidden feelings is the part of you that feels for people.  You are powerfully empathic.  I know, you think it’s a curse.  You hate crying.  Her best insults were pointed at your tears.  They made you an easy target.  You wrestle with them like they are your enemy.  And as far as I have come in my journey, they still bother me.  Not as much… but I would be lying if I said they didn’t matter.

So try this if you are feeling brave:  Your tears are your body’s evidence that you are connected with your feelings.  Sometimes you can find words to put to those feelings and sharing those words with healthy, loving people can help you get through the feelings.  But sometimes you won’t have words… and the feeling is still there.  It’s okay to connect with it and let it run its course.

Crying in front of cruel people isn’t something I recommend.  It takes a profound inner strength to let their insults pass by you.  But you can seek out and find people who are not cruel… who will allow you to cry and sob and feel and not think less of you for it.  They will know that you are human.  And they will not fear that part of you because they accept their own humanness and understand that tears are necessary.

When you come up against a situation where you are reaching for those insults… allow yourself just one moment to pause. See if you can find the words to name what that person is doing without insult.  See if you can make the exchange real by putting powerful words to their actions.  Name it.  Don’t expect them to own it… but those words have the chance to cause change.  Insults do not.  Even if the person attacking you eventually steers clear only because the light of honest words is harsh to those who don’t want to look into their own darkness.

As for those innocent people who you cast your insults towards as a way of managing your overflowing pain… well, those will take the longest to accept.  Still working on it, in fact.

Being bullied, you felt helpless and the way you handled that was to lash out at other helpless people.  Your words and actions have left wounds and scars in them… and in yourself.  You have an easier time forgiving those who bullied you than yourself for bullying others.  Because some part of yourself believes you should have been better than that.  In truth, it’s not because you should have been better.  It’s because you were lying to yourself about who you really are.  You are not a person who gets satisfaction from hurting others.  You think you are because you don’t know any other way to deal with the pain other than to bestow it upon others.  You think it’s a sign of strength because you don’t dare show even the slightest vulnerability lest you get wounded again.  But it’s not strength.  It’s yet another wound you will carry… but this is a wound you bestow upon yourself.

Let go of this tool.  Better to clench your jaw and walk away if you cannot find words to name the pain.  Go find some place safe and let the tears flow.  This will heal so much faster than the weapons you throw at others… because those weapons wound both the target and the caster.

Lastly, remember that the process of letting go is exactly that – a process.  You will continue to make mistakes forever… just less frequently over the span of decades.  That’s okay.  Peace may be stillness… but it isn’t without room for ripples.

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