Thursday, 27 December 2012

When it's better to go STRAIGHT THROUGH

Sometimes, it pays to sit down and drink half your takeout coffee with the barista who made it for you.  If you find a good one, he's like a bartender, only better because, since you're sober, you're much more difficult to impress.

So, I'm in my favourite coffee shop today buying a coffee, and I got chatting with my friend Kevin about pain.  In my usual self important way, I was telling him all about some particular struggles going on in my life, and how hard I was working to minimize the effects of it on my life.  He said something to me that stood me up in my tracks like a right jab straight to the nose.  I didn't write it down or anything, but it was something to the effect of, "maybe there are some struggles in life that you're not meant to bypass."  Maybe the purpose of the pain is just for you to BE. IN. PAIN. for a while.

I shut up for a minute, processing.  I stammered a couple conciliatory sentences out and changed the subject.  Cause that's not my language.

It's woven into North American culture.  The American dream.  The world is ours to manipulate.  If you don't like your results, keep working.  You can change them.  There's ALWAYS a knob you can turn somewhere, a switch you can throw, that can relieve the discomfort.  See, stress isn't good for productivity.  And how am I supposed to attain the life I always dreamed of if I'm stressed out and can't pursue my goals?!  Start from scratch.  Keep scratching.  There's always a variable you can try and change.

One of the recurring themes in my life is harmony.  I love harmony.  If anyone thinks I'm easy to be around, it's because I am willing to stand on my head to make people feel comfortable around me.  Even literally, if it comes down to it.  It makes me good at my job.

But there's a flip side to this coin.  Not only do I love harmony; I hate discord.  I may be willing to stand on my head to create harmony, but you should SEE the dances and acrobatics I'm willing to do to avoid confrontation!  Remember this?
Like that.

As soon as Kevin said it, a movie scene came into my head.  It's amazing how many things I can relate to Fight Club.  I do it, along with listening to Radiohead and NIN because it makes me feel like I'm not a 30 year old suburbanite (even though that's probably the best indicator of my domesticated self's repressed angst...)
The actual scene has been blocked for copyright reasons.  But this gives you the script, so that works.  The God stuff is a goat trail for my purposes, but the dialogue kind of nailed what I was thinking today:
Kevin from CoolBeans bus is my Tyler Durden.  Or maybe my power animal... I'm not sure which.

When pain, discomfort, and disequilibrium come along, I do what the burn victim's doing.  I have a mental break.  I disengage - go to my happy place.  Find any way around it.  Desperately, instantly, try to make it stop.  But maybe, sometimes, the lesson is only to be learned when you sit down and give in to the fact that the burn burns.

I'm no anarchist.  I'm not trying to hit bottom.  So let's give a more socially acceptable example.

When my wife was in labour, she had 2 amazing nurses whom we still greet when we see.  One is a midwife in town now (@prairiemidwives).  I'll never forget what Jenn said (or maybe I falsely attributed it to her - there was a lot of stress and not much sleep going on when I met her...).  She said that you can't escape from the pain of labour.  There's no way around it.  You have to OWN your pain, and go straight THROUGH it to get to the other side.  That's YOUR pain.  You earned it.  And you can carry it, like a decorated soldier, forever, when you're finished.

There is unexplained pain in life.  And some of us get more of it than others.  And sometimes, the most honest, self actualized thing we can do is just throw our hands up and say it sucks.  And slog right through it.

But I bet I'm not alone.  I'm probably not the only one out there who would rather find a new friend than have a confrontation with an existing one, am I?  Please say no.

If I hadn't stopped in to buy a coffee today, maybe I wouldn't have had to acknowledge this about myself.  That probably would've been easier.  Now I'm being forced to look at a number of different situations in my life and re-evaluate whether my current approach is proactive or avoidant.  Maybe I need to man up and take the pain.  Have the confrontation.  Because lord knows I've been using a lot of energy building all these escape routes and workarounds.


  1. Great post, Dan. Reminds me of something similar I wrote a while ago. Check it out:

    1. That's a great illustration! Thanks, Danielle.

  2. The quote in the german poet Rilke (opening stanza, tenth elegy; translations vary), that basically taught me how to grieve after mom died, basically says exactly that: how we look past our pain, to its end, when really, it is our home, and the fullness of our winter. That we can't skip our pain. That we have to gut through the very deep of it, in order to get through.