You know the saying ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade’?
Well sometimes when I see that written or hear it said, it makes me really mad. Because sometimes the lemons are being thrown at my head, or it’s cold and I really want a hot drink. Sometimes the sour taste is hard and unwelcome and I don’t have the energy or wherewithal to go and be a domestic goddess.
We are experts in minimising pain. We love to push past it, to move on quickly. We think if we linger and look for too long, then we’re being self-indulgent, we’re picking over scabs that would have healed if we just ignored them.
But I have found that this tendency to rush past, to turn a negative quickly into a positive, is not good.
In our bodies pain can be an arrow, a sign, to show us something else is wrong. When I fractured my wrists (different times, but yes, I have broken them both) they didn’t look broken, but the pain (and my tears) told me there was something else going on under the skin. The pain pointed to a truth that could not be seen.
The panic attacks I have suffered over the years were also a symptom, a way of getting my attention. Although the experience of a panic attack can be devastatingly horrid (and I have learnt strategies to deal with them in the moment) for me they were primarily a signal that there were other things afoot. They represented the tip of the iceberg, the visible expression of my deeper pain.
I believe the only reason the panic attacks come far less frequently nowadays is because I was willing to investigate the pain, to sit with it, and to talk it through with my therapist. Remaining with the pain was hard, but as I investigated what was going on under the surface, as I exposed it, I began to heal.
Skimming over the surface of our pain can be a way of denying what we are really feeling, a way of burying the truth. Sitting with our pain however is hard, and if you are not use to this practice, it feels awkward. But don’t push past the pain- just because you feel you ought to. Pain needs to be respected. Sometimes (often, in my experience) as you allow the pain to be what it is, you will find you are learning something important about yourself, or someone else, or life.
It might be showing you that a certain relationship is destructive and making you ill. It might be pointing to an environment that has become toxic. It might be revealing to you a habit that is unhealthy and starting to cause long-term damage.
If we do not learn to first acknowledge that we are in pain. Then take time to see where it is coming from, we cannot learn how to live.
If life is giving you lemons, take a load off, be kind to yourself, and, when you are feeling strong and brave enough, look at this unwelcome interruption and see what it might have to say. It might just save your life.
(and you can always buy the lemonade.)