pain, and the stories we tell about it

rain on window screen

A couple of nights ago I was visiting a friend, and she brought up the work of Byron Katie. I’d never read any of Katie’s books, although I’ve been wanting to for a long time, so my friend sent me home with Loving What Is.

Oh. My. Goodness.

I have been needing this book, and I’ll tell you why: I am full-up-to-the-top-of-my-head-and-sick from all the stories I keep telling about myself. Some of my most powerful stories have to do with my body, and its pain: the migraines I’ve suffered since age 10, the debilitating back and knee pain that have dogged me when I get too physically active, and the endometriosis that has slowly but surely made my body an unbearable prison for the last four years.

I started writing this blog post in my head yesterday afternoon while I lay in bed with yet another migraine, probably brought on by the impending thunderstorms that drenched my window screens later in the day (above). I had woken up with it yesterday morning, and it developed into one of the worst headaches I’ve had in years. It came with nausea so severe that I vomited, and I could hardly even sleep (which is typically my migraine cure-all), because the stabbing in my head was so excrutiating.

Early in the morning I had started to read Katie’s book, and her questions taunted me as I writhed on my white cotton sheets.

“Is that true? Who would you be without that story?”

The experience was humbling. Because this is the story I most often tell about my pain: “It hurts. It hurts so much. It hurts so much I can’t do anything. I can’t stand it anymore. I hate my life. I wish I didn’t have to have this pain. This isn’t fair.”

And who would I be without that story? A woman who still hurts, yes. But the answer, as I lay there experiencing some of the worst pain of my life, was “free.” I would be free without my pain story. I would be free to simply be this tender bodysoul. And I felt free, in that moment. I never realized how heavy my pain story was. It gets carried around and pulled out like an oldtime salesman’s sample bag. Would you like to see this pain? How ’bout this one? Oh, and this one is the most valuable one – I get a lot of mileage from it, let me tell you.

Let me tell you… without my pain story, I am a lot happier.

Do you have a pain story? Who would you be without it?