“It is true that I have had heartache and tragedy in my life. These are things none of us avoids. Suffering is the price of being alive.”—Judy Collins
“Some problems are not readily solvable . . .You’re not entitled to pain relief any more than you’re entitled to happiness.”—Dr. John Loeser
It may come as no surprise; I have a knack for “being in my head.” My thoughts can provide me with great comfort, imagination, as well as torment. In fact, my brain is often like a favorite scratched record replaying the same phrase until someone lifts the needle and moves it to another spot. The problem with a stuck record is that it most likely became scratched because it is a favorite tune played one too many times; and, therefore, in the enthusiastic desire to “hear it again,” the record is often handled a bit too roughly creating the nick that causes the needle to stick.
Likewise, the philosophical and physical notion of pain and suffering has been needling my grooved brain for the past year. I have observed this theme demonstrated in a wide array of scenarios. From the physical pain of illness, aging, injury, disease, and so on; to the psychological pain that often manifests itself as physical pain, blurring the lines between the two, of addiction, stress, workload, depression, anxiety, and so forth, the sufferings and pain of others far and near to me cannot be ignored.
Simultaneously, the notion of passion has also been spinning a track around my mind. Over the past year or two, I have participated in several conversations with people who have decided to “pursue their passion” and make fairly dramatic mid-career and/or mid-life changes driven by their suffering. Furthermore, my husband and I have had copious conversations with our newly collegiate daughter, nephew, and their friends struggling with the pain of figuring out their unique passion, or their calling. These discussions have led to self-reflection regarding my own passions and pains. It was as if the sun has been gradually rising within me, shining light on the perception that, perhaps, pain and passion are intertwined; thus, dawning understanding that life cannot be fully expressed without experiencing both.
It is said that the word, passion, evolved from Late Latin passionem, “suffering, enduring,” which came from the Lain stem, pati, which means to “endure, undergo, and experience.” Merriam-Webster.com reveals a total of five definitions presently used for passion, two of which have several sub-definitions. Passion can therefore mean: the “sufferings of Christ”; an emotion distinguished from reason, such as anger, greed, desire, and conviction; ardent affection; strong devotion; sexual desire; or finally, an object of desire or deep interest.
There is a popular quote, “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional,” which really makes a valid point. Life involves pain, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. Ask any mother, the pain of childbirth is real, but it is our passionate love for our child that pushes us through the labor; and, our pain is soon forgotten once that child is our arms.
In my continual passion to become a teacher, I have had to endure many painful evolutions, situations, and challenging years; but without those difficult times, I would not possess the same level of educational wisdom that I now enjoy. If I had simply chosen to avoid the pain of career change, I would have missed 30 years of a range of experiences that spans teaching every grade, K-12.
Likewise, as a writer, there are times, such as when trying to write this very piece, in which I am pained over words, thoughts, and ideas. I will write, delete, think, rewrite, read, delete, pause, think, and rewrite again, sometimes for hours over one paragraph or even a sentence, in order to best articulate what I hope will become a concise, meaningful piece worth sharing.
Would I like to avoid the pain and struggle? Heck, yes! Do I wish words flowed easily and swiftly? Absolutely! However, it is my passion that impels me to persist, endure, and undergo the transitory experience of pain in order to evolve, progress, and hopefully create a nutritional nugget worth sharing.
I recently conversed with a young person complaining about the years of study and schoolwork she faced over the next foreseeable future. She explained how much time school and extra-curricular activities took, leaving little time to relax. Could this pain she was experiencing be attributed to her own passionate work ethic that drives her to go above and beyond any given assignment?
Another person recently described to me, in great details, her physical pain; and yet, she fully confessed those very ailments were a result of her passion for nutritional choices that do not agree with her constitution. Furthermore, this acquaintance knew that those poor choices often stemmed from unhappiness, sadness, and frustration due to not living life in a manner she so desperately desired.
Likewise, I have bemoaned my own back injury. The pain and numbness were letting me know, something was wrong; perhaps my passion for activity needed addressed. Furthermore, throughout the healing process, I’ve had to embrace the pain as a gauge for what activity is or isn’t beneficial. If I had attempted to avoid pain by taking excessive painkillers, I would not only have potentially further damaged my spine, but also would not have learned to live more safely in tune with my body.
Perhaps, I was onto something when I began writing this piece. Like musical black vinyl, humans are grooved with feelings that must be played and heard by the needle of life. Often, it is in our passionate pursuits, we skip out of our God-given track, our life needle becomes stuck, and we feel immense pain. However, just as the stuck record of long ago was signaling an important message; pain is likewise communicating important messages. It often forces us to our knees for a reason. By attempting to avoid pain, we may be ignoring significant implications. And like that record, pain requires listening—deep, Divine listening to learn what we need to do in order to get back on track, creating our own beautiful life song.
Therefore, trying to avoid pain, I’ve concluded, is asking to avoid passion, and, ultimately, avoid life. Thus, I choose to live fully with the pain and passion—all the while praying Divine Providence will play His song through me.