What I Wish I’d Known About Pain and Suffering

This is a rare post, it will be entirely about looking at the past. I don’t advise looking back, unless it’s to see how far you’ve come (don’t pat yourself on the back, only recognize progress). It’s also okay to look back without judgement when you are in deep self-analysis. That time is now.

Tonight I will look back – not in regret or shame. Tonight is about remembering… for the purposes of forgiveness, healing, reflection.

Ah, dreams of going back in time.. If we could only change the past. Dangerous thoughts. Usually it leads to false thinking (imagining things were way better than they were) or guilt and regret over “missed chances.” (which is bullshit)

I”m grateful for the few precious blessings I have today, and I wouldn’t risk them by altering the past. I’ve got a gorgeous, sweet and delightfully weird daughter. A loving and supportive madre. A healthy body. A cock like a boa constrictor. And the mind of a fucking scientist.

But seriously, we all know Butterfly Effect wasn’t only an amazing movie – it spoke truth. It’s dangerous to mess with the past. We should only dig up the deep past to teach and learn, and quickly. Every minute you spend in the past is one minute of the present you lose forever. Reminisce wisely.

my prison of pain, shame and suffering

Like you, I’ve been through some really, really awful shitty times. At certain points in my life I’ve suffered from suffocating emotional pain, zero self-confidence.  The feelings of shame were always there. With every breath I’d taste guilt over just who I was as a human being. I felt I was damaged, screwed up, worthless. Misunderstood, not made for this world.

I would admit that I was the problem, and then use that admission as an excuse to commit all kinds of dumb fuckery. Drink myself into oblivion time and time again, sleep with someone I didn’t love time and time again, create reckless and dangerous situations to lose myself in. Spend too much money. Be an asshole to those who truly loved me. Sabotage wonderful opportunities for financial gain and real education and progress.

But hey, this is what fuckups do, right? “I just don’t care.” Meanwhile I’d cry myself to sleep over the pain, guilt, the feeling of just being completely lost. And no idea of what I was even lost in. Where was I supposed to even be going?

When the darkness came upon me, it seemed to have no end. That feeling like the rest of your life is already known to you – depression and suffering. So why even go on? At times like that – existing as a conscious lifeform is unbearable. It’s a screaming, I’m in the woods, find me. Help me. But you don’t say shit. You don’t ask for help. You don’t call a friend or parent and bare your soul. Even if you see a therapist – you lie don’t you?

You just keep existing. Suffering, walking through life leaving an invisible blood trail everywhere.

Enough. No looking back to feel self-pity. I think you’ve read some of my other stuff (or not.) This blog is about facing pain instead of running, substituting or ignoring it. Nothing in my brain changed until I learned to lean into my pain and then accepted it as a lifelong companion. My life is a daily prayer to pain and I’m grateful to it for finally opening my eyes. Pain is leading me to create the life I always wanted, after all this time.

Ryan Holiday nails it in his book, The Obstacle is the Way:

Remember, a castle can an intimidating, impenetrable fortress, or it can be turned into a prison when surrounded. The difference is simply a shift in action and approach.

What surrounds us is our pain, emotion, and struggle. The obstacles in our lives. Perhaps the disappointments, regrets, and terrible experiences. Will you let them keep you trapped like a prisoner? Maybe instead you see them at the gate of your bad-ass castle, acknowledge them, and move the fuck on. Better yet, pelt them with some rocks and dump hot oil on them.

Let’s get to the point..


what would I say to Myself if I could go back?

What if I could go back and give myself a 10-minute coaching session? That’s all I ask. That’s the whole point of this droning post 🙂

Let’s pretend I can time travel and magically beam myself down right now. That I could talk to myself during one of my darkest times, when I had absolutely no hope. You’re along with me for the ride.

Let’s Get STarted –

This is gonna be like we are in the movie Scrooged, okay? It’s you and I, I’m Bill Murray. You’re just you. And our host is the Ghost of Christmas Past. The taxi driver guy with the jacked up grill.

We’re going to take our taxi time machine to one of my dark times, feel free to substitute one of your own. Mold my words into your own, please feel free to make this yours.

Ghost, take us to November 29, 2013 at 2:07am. Another late, lonely and tormented night. One of thousands. I have a saved note in my iPhone from then, I must have come home drunk and went on a massive tear about how I must turn my world around. I meant well, but had it all wrong…

Here we go. Buckle up!

Next second we’re flying through a cunino-lingus cloud (err, the mind will forever wander, I just let it). Lightning, darkness. The taxi shakes violently, this elicits the Ghost’s evil, maniacal cackle. 15 seconds later we arrive, pulling to a sudden halt at front of my simpleton 2-bedroom apartment in Dublin, Ohio.

The door is open because I’m a drunken buffoon and forgot to lock it. There I am, on the couch. Most likely just housed a bag of pizza rolls. Let’s recall the mission. I’m here for the pain inside my former self. The pain in his soul, the hopelessness, the wondering if life will ever, ever amount to anything more than pain, fear and shame… I love you old Paul, I want to help you.

We walk over to chair and coffee table. My old self cannot see us yet, we are invisible. We sit, and suddenly the ghost between us. He gives us simple instructions: “When I snap my fingers, I’ll disappear. It’ll only be you two, and your old self will be able to see you. When we leave your old self will fall asleep, and remember only a dream.”

Snap.

..

Hey Paul –

You feel that you want so much from this life. There’s so much life hasn’t given you, right man? The world doesn’t understand you. Why can’t you just get everything you want?

Why can’t you stop hating yourself? Why do you fail at everything? Why are you so damaged? I bet you wish you could just start it all over sometimes. This life. Shit maybe you’re too tired for that even. Maybe you wish you never existed. You didn’t ask to be alive did you? As Neil Gaiman says-

Life is a disease: sexually transmitted, and invariably fatal.

I’m so sorry for your suffering. I wish I could take it all away. I wish I could snap my fingers and wash the bliss of ignorance over you. Take all the pain away.

But I can’t. What’s fucked up is that this is all part of a plan. This is your fate, Paul… You will learn to love it someday.

The beautiful, sad, liberating fact is that you’re always going to be you. You are you. You’re stuck my friend.

When you make that billion dollars. When you land that impossibly perfect spouse. When you get that amazing body. When you get that job that makes everyone think you’re a success. You will still be you.

Oh, I get it. You’re thinking that you have to change so that you can get all those things, then you’ll be happy. You have to focus on the future, make yourself better, fight like a warrior to achieve and prove your worth. Why are you fighting yourself so much? You’re killing yourself in a silent battle for non-existent glory. You’re missing out on so much life, Paul. Every minute you squander on self-pity, doubt, regrets, shame.

What’s wonderful is that you don’t have to get rid of these feelings. You don’t have to fight them any longer. You only need to feel them, to accept them, to study and analyze the “why” behind them.

See, you need those feelings so that you may finally find serenity and peace…So that you can learn why they’re happening Paul, and so that your body-mind mind can learn to manage them itself.

There’s no escape you handsome devil. Ever. This is it. And you will die someday. What time is it? Right Now. Where are you living? Right Here.

Don’t get inundated and overwhelmed with future. The amazing thing is that knowing and realizing these truths will forever change the issues. Start tomorrow by reading books on self-love (Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It), spirituality (Ram Dass), acceptance and stillness (I love Krishnamurti). Ask for help from those that love you. Call your mom.

Commit to yourself that you will never feel this way again. Yes, you’ll go through insanely shitty times again in life. But you will be different. You will evolve, Paul. You will heal and grow stronger, within your mind, your spirit, your connection to the universe.

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Thinking this way, knowing these truths, will build habits and wisdom that will never leave you. Know that pain exists to teach, you force you to evolve. Pain brings growth, knowledge, truth. Wisdom and love.

There is great freedom in this truth. A truth repeated so many times by so many people, from Gandhi and buddhists and yogis to unhappy famous people who discovered it the world over.

The freedom, the gift, is that you have YOU. Scars and all. And that is all. This mind, this body, are your tools and your vessels.

Everything outside of your mind and body are only illusions.

Amor fati

Amor Fati ~ it means a love of fate. The Romans dealt with the same struggles. Since becoming conscious – all humans have had the struggle..

Practice amor fati. Acceptance and love for your situation. It’s written. All a plan. This time of pain and sorrow is the most important moment of your life. It’s telling you something.

You can start living NOW. Don’t wait, there is no waiting or gradual change when it comes to this. It’s an immediate awakening.

When you make partner, when you make your first million, when you marry that girl… Sorry to say but you’ll be the same guy.

And you’ll be on even more of a bad trip because you’ll wonder “why am I not happy now?! I must really be messed up.” This is the wicked, unhealthy toxic as hell mindset that affects the famous and wealthy. When they achieve so much and yet feel so empty. It’s an even greater sadness for them because they “have it all” and still aren’t content. With great pleasure comes equally great pain. Many can’t handle the downside.

The best part is that just knowing this to be true, and practicing this mindset, takes care of almost of the problems itself! You will catch yourself constantly falling into the toxic way of thinking.. “I’ll be happy then, I have to work hard and I can be happy then. Boy that will be great.”

NO!

When you shift the inside. You alter the outside. You alter the world. The best gift you can give your fellow man, the universe, is to be the best self you can. With no expectations, with no attachments. No pat on the back. It is your gift, yourself, your love and your spirit.

Don’t worry about getting all this down. Spiritual gurus are self-confessed students for life. A cliche that you’ll finally start to understand is: The journey IS the end, there is nowhere to get to or a level to arrive at. THIS is it. This is the meaning of life, simply walking the path.

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moments when life is in sync

You know those moments when everything just feels right? When life is in sync?

A scored goal in a friendly soccer match with friends. A great pump at the gym. The right song, at the right time. Driving home with that beautiful pink sky smacking you right in the eyeballs, impossible to ignore. When life is happening right in front of you. And you drink it up.

Those are the miracles, that is as good as it gets in life, that is when you are ALIVE. The cool part is if you’ve EVER felt one moment like that then you know it is inside you. The potential for miracles, for joy, for an amazing life experience.

What gets in the way then? Why do we lose sight of this? I think it’s because of the stresses of this life we were not built for… we literally have fight or flight responses to things like driving, bills due, boss criticizing us, angry call from a landlord, whatever it may be. When we feel that soaring joy, those moments when all of life “clicks,” we lose it because we go back to this world with its daily trials and pains..

The solution?  Build mindfulness, embrace truth, face the fear. Prepare for the unavoidable smack you in your face TRUTH that is this moment, and this moment, forever. You will die someday, you are mortal. The only time is now. There is no incremental, there is no later, Paul. You are loved, you are worthy, you are valuable, you are special. You are unique and exactly you were supposed to be here in this world. Stop being so scared, stop being so ashamed, stop punishing yourself, stop tearing your life apart every day.

Man you are always going to have shitty times. That’s life. But living in the past and dwelling on mistakes, shame and guilt is a terrible life. Please break the cycle of pain, sorrow, and false solutions such as drugs, sex, religion, achievements and possessions.

The only moment you have is here, and now. Don’t desire a better future. Live it.

7 Comments

  1. I remember one of those moments you are describing in high school. I spoke to the baseball coach personally, after he started players over me that were not up for the job, and quite frankly, were not entitled to start over me. I made my point clear, he started me the next game, and guess what? I hit my one and only home run of my high school career, and it was a moment I’ll never forget. I took action, I was bold, and I did the right thing, and it paid off. No, it wasn’t winning a world series, but it brought me validity, and it was surreal. Those are the moments we much cherish.

  2. Mind you, it was also my first at bat that season!
    typo * must cherish

  3. Lane, thanks for reading! Way to seize that moment. I’m sure it was very fulfilling. That took tons of courage and steadfast confidence. My high school athletics experiences were quite opposite, haha. I remember showing up to a wrestling tournament, weighing about 15 pounds over what I should have (and not focused or in shape), and thought that by listening to “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor, I would somehow come out victorious in all my bouts. All mental right?

    I was pinned 4 times in a row and that was the tournament.

    😀

    Purposeful, focused, hard work definitely pays off. I’m you busted your ass thousands of hours just to make that one beautiful moment a reality.

  4. Paul,
    yeah we all face those tough times where we have a major decision to make. When it comes down to it, standing your ground and believing in the right thing is the route that most often brings the proper response. Just because someone is the leader or coach, doesn’t make them automatically right. They also make choices and have their own opinions too. It’s those moments when it feels like our heart is going to pound out of our chests. Those moments get the adrenaline flowing, and mind racing. It’s all about embracing that, and riding the wave.
    Hey, wrestling is not for the average person. Kudos for giving it a go, no matter the outcome.

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