The disturbing events of the last several months have created a wave of gripping visual images that float in and out of my conscious awareness:
Me, at the age of 11, marching for civil rights and singing “We Shall Overcome.” Me, as a college student, when the slogan “Make Love Not War” saturated our student culture.
My great-grandmother embracing her son, my grandfather, for the last time as she helped him escape the pogroms in his native Poland. He was hidden in a laundry cart so he could go unnoticed on his way to board a ship to America, the land of the free. (Pogroms: a series of organized massacres targeting Jewish communities)
My children’s paternal great-grandparents who perished in concentration camps.
And finally….. the image of a grotesque, gaping wound flooded my awareness – the wound of racism, bigotry, violence and hatred that I had struggled to hide for much of my adult life – the heartbreak which was just too much to bear.
This led to the realization that I MUST see, hear and feel this wound.
My recovery from chronic emotional and physical pain occurred when I moved toward my discomfort and allowed it.
I now know that the only way to transform pain is to allow it, hear it, and honor its message.
Our society trains us to bypass emotional pain and to apply the “band-aide method” to much of our lives. How often are we encouraged to “just get over it,” or “smile when our hearts are breaking”?
I learned early on, as many women do, that smiling was an effective tool to protect me from social disapproval and to diffuse potentially uncomfortable confrontations with friends and family members. My smile became a mask and a habit that served to totally disconnect me from myself and from others.
I am grateful to my body for finally “speaking up” with an abundance of painful symptoms resulting in diagnoses ranging from psoriatic arthritis and trigger finger to spinal stenosis, piriformis syndrome and sciatica.
My screaming body certainly got my attention, but it took decades for me to truly acknowledge the fire that was burning within. I spent years simply trying to turn off the fire alarm with medication and treatments that did not help me.
My deep dive into the flames paved the road to healing.
Right now, our country is hurting. We may be experiencing confusion with surges of emotional energy we have never learned to navigate. Whether we want to lash out or hide, we owe it to ourselves to practice self-kindness and compassionate self-reflection throughout this voyage.
It is challenging to honor the anguish we feel in response to despicable and disturbing events, but our pain will eventually guide us to the actions that will lead to healing.
Again and again, in spite of my natural desire to avoid and ignore discomfort; I find myself plunging back into its depths. Only then can the healing begin.
When we expose the throbbing heart of this wound, our truth will rise up to guide us.
It is time for all of us to break out of our comfort zones. Let’s face the truth together and compassionately Let It Hurt.