Today as I left my coffee-shop work meeting, I suddenly found myself alone at a set of 4-way crosswalks on a busy street. The street is filled with diversity, crumbling old buildings giving way to bright new ones, and the chaos of construction ruffling the feathers of the rich and poor pedestrians alike.
Punch that crosswalk button and wait for the little light-up man to say I can walk across. Why do I punch the button? I am almost certain, even if I don't, the lite-brite man is still going to pop up when it's my turn to walk. I think I look at the button like insurance. I don't want to be held in place one moment longer than I want to, and if I don't press the button, that might happen. So don't experiment, just do it.
Standing there waiting for my destiny, an un-profound thought was pressed in my brain that has teased me several times in the past. The thought was simply unrelated to anything that was happening in that moment:
Sometimes, we hold on to pain because it is easier, and it feels better, than letting pain go.
I think being in pain makes us feel alive. It gives us a sense of unique identity. It makes us feel like we matter. Pain matters. If bad things happen, it matters. And if something that matters happens to us, then we are truly important. Even if we keep our hurts a secret from the entire universe, nursing them close to our hearts.
Or maybe we hold on for another reason.
I have often remained in the dull throb of my painful experiences, because I hate hurting so much that I don't want to do the work that is required to get to the other side. I don't want to wait patiently and take the steps to process what is happening, what I've lost, how I'm betrayed, how I've erred so terribly. I shove it down to where the pain is no longer sharp, but it remains very dull and long-lasting. If I let it come to the surface I could pull it out for good! But then I might lose control of my emotions, and that must never be. Nothing must stop me from moving on or remaining in charge of my destiny, least of all, me.
Punch a button, get that insurance that I need to keep moving right along.
And just like that I moved on from my thought, but tonight I also know that even though the hurt is sharper for a little while to process pain through to its release, it's worth the sweetness of relinquishing what ails. These things that nag and linger deep down make my heart creaky, its joints achey.
It sort of comes out of the blue, because it's not as though I'm going through some dramatic suffering lately. But that's the message that the lite-brite man brought me to share with you tonight.