The stabbing pain of the cramp, shooting from between my two smallest toes up into my foot, was something I had felt coming all through yoga class, so it was no surprise that it arrived as I lay on my back with my legs in the air, toes pointed. Well, toes pointed until the pain arrived.
For some reason, I decided to see what it would do. Usually, my reaction would be to reach for the cramp, rub it, undo the twist that my toes curl into, and move on, all the while feeling the threat of that cramp coming back. This time, I handled it differently; I relaxed, and within in seconds, the pain subsided, my toes uncurled, and after, I felt no threat of the pain returning.
It is in moments like these that I am most proud of myself because I know that this event is not just about the cramp. It is about how I handle discomfort of all varieties.
In the past, I would do anything I could to avoid it. Self-soothing with food, alcohol, sex, my phone, TV, FB, or anything else I could get my hands on to either distract me from or dull down the pain. I was so afraid of knowing myself, so afraid of understanding where my pain was and why. I was so afraid to touch the trauma I had suffered, as part of me suspected that it was my own fault. This fear kept me from myself.
But, I learned, over time, to sit with my discomfort. I learned to look at the most painful parts of myself and air them out, no matter how shameful, how embarrassing, or how wrong I felt I was. This part has never been easy, and I cannot say it has gotten easier over time. Looking at my darkness and claiming it is a struggle every time. It's just that now, I know what is on the other side of it.
On the other side is a deeper knowing and appreciation of myself. Through sitting with, accepting, and claiming what is most shameful to me, I release the shame, and I am free. I am okay with the parts of me that are not so wonderful, and this in turn helps me to accept the darkness in others.
Because I am not a stranger to myself, I am more apt to give other people the opportunity to be known. I am more apt to allow myself to be known. It is easier for me to set boundaries, to ask for what I need, and to feel at home in my body. That said, this is not a constant joy in my life. This is not a space in which I have arrived and now everything is groovy. This is a space of awareness, and I stay here, battling, struggling, because the world is a better place with this version of me in it.
As I write that, I know that some will bristle. I know that some will want to hate me for that. I know because part of me feels that too. But, I used to be the person who made people cry. I used to be the person who could make people feel small with a look. I used to be the person who strategized how to bring my enemies down. And, in a way, I liked being that person. I felt strong, in a way.
But the person who sends people away smiling? The person who sends people away inspired? She does make the world a better place, and on my good days, I am that person.
So I would say to you, if there is anything about yourself that brings you pain, look at it. Hold it. Understand that pushing it down, trying to ignore or deny it, will only cause problems.
We are here to enjoy the experience of being human. We are here to see how far we can go, how much we can do for each other. We are here to reach our highest potential, but that is not possible if we deny parts of ourselves. It is not possible if we cannot accept that we are all of us, in some way, broken.
Do not let your pain keep you from yourself. You are worth knowing. You might not think so, you might have been told differently all of your life. But you are, and the best thing in world is knowing who you are. Because that is a journey that will never end, and never get boring, and even if that is all you ever do, get to really know and accept yourself, the world will be a better place for having you in it, too.
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