There is this really annoying thing my Pilates instructor always says to us in class. She always says it, of course, when she has me and my fellow grimacing Pilates enthusiasts locked into some kind of painful repetitive move, like deep leg lunges with weights. As we near the tenth repetition, she'll say, a little too enthusiastically, “Embrace the pain! Own it. Get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable!” I cringe. It really irritates me. Also, her voice is a bit high-pitched. But really, why would I want to embrace pain? It's human instinct, quite justly, to avoid pain in all of its many forms. Physical pain ranks very high on the avoidance list for all creatures, so it's kind of silly to ask someone to take it on willingly. In fact, it's kind of odd that humans go to gyms at all, where we strain to lift heavy objects over our heads or huff and puff on a moving machine that's going nowhere. I've never seen a squirrel or even a chimpanzee attempting to get buff biceps. No, embracing pain to look fit is definitely a human invention. But there is another kind of torture humans readily take on. Why do we embrace the pain of our doomed relationships? Why do we fight for them instead of walking away?
When It's Okay to Run Away
After years of grunting through the misery of tough daily body-weight workouts, I spontaneously decided to start running. It was just after my divorce, and I was living in and wallowing in a kind of emotional pain that was getting to be too much for me to bear. The desire to run seemed to come out of nowhere, and once I started doing it I discovered I could go farther and longer than I ever thought I could. I ran and ran, and with every step I felt a sense of a weight being lifted from my body, and a little bit from my heart, too. I didn't want to embrace pain; I wanted to run away from it, and I think that's what my running was all about. I know that there are things in life we can't avoid, and that the stages of grief, whether from divorce or death, are unavoidable. But as humans, there is only so much we can manage on a daily basis. Intense, chronic pain affects your health, and can slowly kill you. So it's quite natural to want to run away sometimes.
Looking back on my grief process, I have learned that you cannot put a deadline on your emotions. You can't keep telling yourself that one day you'll be okay again. You have to allow yourself to live in the moment, and be okay right now. Even if your tears are overflowing, you have to be okay with that too.
Taking the first steps can be scary
I guess my Pilates teacher is right - you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. But you don't have to embrace pain. You just merely have to learn to live with it, for now, without letting it take over your whole life. And sometimes, it's okay to run away. After months of sadness, I was sick of crying myself to sleep every night. I wanted to be happy again, to feel some kind of joy in life that I hadn't felt in a long time. Our days here are limited, and I didn't want to spend the rest of mine in agony. I finally achieved a method of coping by setting aside a certain time each day to grieve. That way, instead of depressing thoughts popping into my head all day and night, I could control them. For thirty minutes, I accepted the full intensity and the enormity of my divorce suffering. I cried, and screamed, and let it all out. But then I needed to run away. I ran, and allowed myself the escape. And I think that's what we all need.
Breaking Free from the pain
When Grieving Your Divorce, There Is A Time For Everything
Why should this ugly monster we call divorce be allowed to reign over you? Why does it get to control how you feel at work, and keep you under a constant state of stress? It doesn't have to. I know it sounds unlikely or maybe even crazy to say you should set a timer on your emotions. But unless you want to embrace hurt, or stress and resentment as your lot in life, the only option is to compartmentalize your divorce pain. Take a few minutes everyday to face the suffering you are going through, because it is real and it may not be going away anytime soon. But then, when you have done all that, let it go for a while. Put down the weight of the world you are carrying around with you and walk outside in the sun. Live. Enjoy your time of not crying, and not worrying. Know that you are okay right now, even if you have to go through the heartbreak of divorce. Give yourself a break. And when in doubt, run.
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