Facing Unavoidable Pain

Heads up! This post is 7 years old. In 2021, I restarted my blog after many years of not writing regularly. See the the new stuff!

I’ve been working with my sugar habit, which is lifelong. I’ve realized that it is really more about my relationship to pain than my relationship to sugar. Sugar is just one of the many ways I avoid feeling the deeper pain in my life. It may be my favorite and easiest method at the moment, but it’s a symptom of a deeper issue.

What I realized yesterday (over a bowl of ice cream), is that creating a healthier eating habit is (relatively) easy–facing deep sadness and pain is much, much harder.

The deepest pain in my life is the suffering I can do nothing about. Hopelessness kills me. I rage against the dying of the light. I rage and rage and rage. I chase after hope. I work for change. I fiercely believe in human potential. I believe in you. I believe in the human race. I believe so much in so many people. And these are all good things. 

Except when they are not. Except when I’m hurting myself because I can’t accept that people die. People hurt. People sometimes don’t get better. Systems and institutions are often implacably unjust. And they may or may not change in time for people I care deeply about to benefit. And even if and when they do change (because they will), it won’t erase the pain of what has already happened.

What keeps coming to mind is the photography project The Battle We Didn’t Choose. After falling in love-at-first-sight, Angelo’s wife Jennifer was diagnosed with breast cancer 5 months after their wedding. He documented in photos her battle to survive and her death five years later. It’s beautiful and haunting and horrible.

It doesn’t make sense. It isn’t fair. It isn’t right. And there is no making it right.

That is the harshness of human reality. We make meaning out of tragedy. That is our gift. But the tragedy is still tragic. The pain is still painful. We can face it and have beautiful lives. What we can’t do is run from it, without hurting ourselves and each other.

So today I sit and face my tears. I let them fall and know I’m not alone. I attempt to accept the reality that life will never be perfect and pain-free.

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2 comments

  1. Awesome post. I relate on every level. I saw ‘The Battle We Didn’t Choose’ come up on my feed the other day too. I’m sure it’s a beautiful, poignant, post ~ but knew in an instant I couldn’t even look at it for where it would send me emotionally.

    I loved this paragraph:

    ‘The deepest pain in my life is the suffering I can do nothing about. Hopelessness kills me. I rage against the dying of the light. I rage and rage and rage.’

    Me too.

    Thank you again for writing.

  2. Emma, love this. I too get the most down when I am hopeless and have a hard time with accepting the pain that is integral to being human (mine, other people’s, on a societal and global scale). Thank you for the work you do to change the world – which includes sitting with your sadness. oxo adc

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