Reflections on the Human Experience of Pain (AKA, How I Learned It Is INDEED Possible to Cry While Driving A Convertible)
(AKA, How I Learned It Is INDEED Possible to Cry While Driving A Convertible) originally written June 5, 2015
Written while listening to:
“The King of Wishful Thinking” by New Found Glory
“The Tears of a Clown” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
“Thks Fr Th Mmrs” by Fall Out Boy
“Blue on Black” by Kenny Wayne Shepard
That subtitle is funny, right? You laughed. I did too when it popped into my mind, and again when I just typed it.
I wasn’t laughing when it actually happened. I once said it is impossible to NOT smile when driving a convertible.
Pain. Like candy, it comes in varieties. Physical, emotional, mental. Psychological. Burning, stabbing, aching, or crampy. It comes in waves, in bursts, or it is constant. While universal, pain is uniquely subjective. The pain scale is used by doctors for this reason. My ten might be your five, or vice versa. People talk about physical pain readily.
Emotional pain tends to be taboo. Why? Pain is universal. Why is this type of pain difficult to address?
It may speak to vulnerabilities we do not wish to share. How hard is it to tell someone that they hurt your feelings? Or to reach out when you’re hurting inside and need to talk? How many times have you been asked, “How are you?” and your automatic response is a smiling, “Fine! And you?”
“…I deny the tears in my eyes, I don’t want to let you see…’cause I’m the king of wishful thinking…”
We have all done this…denied our emotional pain in the face of indisputable evidence to the contrary.
We hide the side of ourselves that feels pain so deeply, we are wracked with gut wrenching sobs on our knees in the shower. We do not want anyone to see the pain that curls us in the fetal position, trying contain the pain somehow and keep it from spreading throughout the body. We don’t talk about the times we hurt so much it takes our breath away, and we are honestly living minute to minute to get through it. The unbidden tears that roll down our cheeks are brushed off as allergies, and we give thanks for glasses and waterproof eye makeup. Or, we unexpectedly find ourselves sobbing as we drive our convertible on a mild spring morning.
Sometimes emotional pain is constant, dull, and almost achy. It becomes your “normal.” Sometimes you think the pain is gone. Like a cut you think has healed… until it bumps something, or you touch it…and WOW the pain returns to the surface. It sends you running to the bathroom at work to whimper quietly in a stall, or to your car during break so you can slouch behind the dashboard for a timed weeping session. Pain knows no boundaries and no appropriate time, and it becomes the reason you find random tissues in all of your pockets.
Some think there is strength in hiding pain, stoically going through it alone. For some that is preferable to opening up to someone…anyone. Some find their strength in vulnerability. Some learn to ask for help and to lean on others when needed.
“…the tears of a clown, when there’s no one around…”
Sometimes making another person smile and laugh can alleviate our own pain for a moment. Some use humor to deflect questions and get people laughing. If you’re laughing, no one can see the tears in your eyes. And no one looks for pain in the eyes of the funny girl. No one.
I spoke with a friend about armor, wearing it and hiding behind it. Armor is a perfect analogy. The humorous deflection is armor. The denial of obvious signs of emotional pain-also armor. The question: why do we feel the need to don such armor when facing our own emotional pain? We generally do not when it comes to physical pain.
You eventually learn that emotional pain almost always passes. On the other side of the hurt is joy. While emotional pain seems insurmountable while you’re wallowing in the depths, you must remember that the experience of pain is needed in order for joy and happiness to exist. We cannot feel and enjoy the highs without experiencing the lows. Those lows are sometimes deeper and darker than we think. We need to feel the pain, deal with it when it comes, and move on without tumbling into the abyss and living there. You need to own your emotions and your pain. Stand up and say, “Yes I am hurting and NO I am not ok. The tears rolling down my face are the pieces of my broken heart and shattered soul.” It is okay to hurt and to feel pain. It is part of the human experience, and there is not a thing wrong with being human. Take solace in the knowledge that this shall pass.
“…get me out of my mind…”
In time, the worst of the pain will be but a memory. What you do with that memory is up to you, but I promise you will become stronger for having endured.