"I Hope it Doesn't Hurt Too Much" (the inevitability of pain and the optional nature of suffering)
I hope it doesn't hurt!
grimaced my husband as I drove him to the doctor this week.
He'd recently had a hip operation and was due to have the staples out. Well overdue actually. His physiotherapist had tut-tutted at the wound when she saw him the week before,
Those staples should really come out,
she said, frowning,
Otherwise they can become embedded under the skin and that makes them impossible to pull out. And very painful.
The delay was due to some paperwork mix-up with the GP.
Couldn't be helped,
they said. Hubby was worried though, imagining the embeddedness and, no doubt, violent extraction of said staples.
Is it a problem that it might hurt?
I asked him, glancing over.
He looked at me with surprise.
What do you mean? I don't want it to hurt!
Sure, none of us wants to experience pain, but in some circumstances, pain is inevitable, and it looked to me to be one of those times.
The future is always unknown, and worrying about it wasn't going to alleviate the potential pain. It did, however, add stress and anxiety to his experience of our car journey.
"Hmm," he mused, and went quiet. We continued the drive in silence.
Actual of Pain versus Imagined Suffering…
Here what happens in life: we face things that hurt.
Sometimes it's physical pain—a fall, an illness, an operation, cycling through nettles(!) Sometimes it's emotional pain—hurtful words, a loss, the illness or struggle of someone we love. Life sucks, and we're in no position to control it.
AND, what we seem to be trained to avoid the hurt; to make the pain into a 'bad thing', something we would rather be without.
We don't have to welcome pain, but we don't have to avoid it either. We can take care of ourselves: a dressing on an open wound, chicken soup and a romantic movie for a low mood.
What doesn't seem quite so sensible is bringing that pain with us. My husband wasn't in pain in the car, but he was still sitting in a bubble of worry about what might be coming.
No Need to Fear…
Just as a surfer takes the choppy breaker with the perfect wave, when our circumstances are less than pleasant, we are simply riding the ebb and flow of life. Our experience isn't something to run from—we couldn't outrun it anyway, no matter how hard we tried!
In the words of Sydney Banks,
If the only thing people learned was not to be afraid of their experience, that alone would change the world.
For my husband, the staples came out easily enough; the nurse was halfway through before he realised she had started. When that happens the pointlessness of worry is obvious; what's not so obvious is that worry is pointless no matter whether the hurt is coming or not.
Preparation is OK!
To not worry isn't the same as to not prepare.
Preparation is good. The anticipation of future circumstances and getting ourselves ready for what's coming is sensible, whether that's saving for retirement or booking an early appointment to save the pain of staple-removal.
But, worrying about things we can't control, bringing our suffering into the present and missing out on our current experience... well, that looks like a waste of life to me.
Have a beautiful week, happy reflections, and talk next time.