Growing at the speed of pain
I don’t totally understand the expression “we grow at the speed of pain,” but I maybe understand it a little bit more after today. Today I got to be there while a woman I know tried to make sense of her life in the form of taking a stab at her first fourth step. A fourth step is when we make “a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” If you google it, you’ll see that a lot of helpful folks have made these worksheets to fill in so it’s not so freeform. There’s a worksheet for resentments, one for fears, and one for wrongdoing.
The resentments worksheet has four or five columns depending on who you ask: Column one – Who or what am I resenting? Column two – What happened, why am I resenting? Column three – What part of myself is threatened? eg. my ego, my security, my finances; and Column four – What’s my part in it?
Obviously column four is where it gets kind of interesting and you get people, not me or my friends of course, but other people getting dazed and confused about why they might have anything to do with their husbands leaving them or friends ditching them or employers firing them or going to jail or getting a DUI or a bad grade or bad tip or going bankrupt or just not getting invited to family gatherings or asked out on dates so much anymore.
My friend likes to do a fifth column – what could I have done differently? I really like that fifth column too because it makes it all a bit less grim, winding up on a high note, and focuses on the learning part. Because we are learning. We are growing at the speed of pain, the pain of looking at how we were. The pain of looking at how we could have been different, better, and the pain of knowing that might not have changed the outcome back then but would have given us perhaps more serenity, brought us closer to our truer selves, sooner. The selves that are not scared, resentful, greedy, and grasping but the ones who are serene, generous, and light.
And it’s painful even to catch a glimpse of what that might be like, to be serene, generous, and light, if one is twenty or thirty or forty years old, or older. If one has had a partner or kids or loved ones and not been that way to them, or to oneself, for a while, it’s painful to look at. To realize that for a long time we have not been living in the flow of life, free from attachments and aversions, as some would say. We’ve been really attached, really wanting other people to be different, how we want them to be, so that we could be more comfortable. We’ve been scared, scared to let people know what we really need, want, and think, that we need to be loved, as we are. That most of the time a hug would really help a lot, even more than taking out the trash or keeping the kitchen counter clear. That we are very sensitive, more sensitive than it’s comfortable to admit. That sometimes “how are you?” feels like gunfire.
Man, it hurts. But then, like flowers glowing after the rain, we learn that it’s ok to be how we are and to let other people know it. To be fuchsia and electric blue and yellow. We learn that we are precious and that other people are too, just as they are. We may not want them around so much but we don’t need them to change. We change our own thoughts and actions. We can accept it all. All. We think about column four and five and suddenly life is in bloom, growing wild and vibrant and alive.