David White: Pain

Pain is the first proper step to real compassion; it can be a foundation for understanding all those who struggle with their existence. Experiencing real pain ourselves, our moral superiority comes to an end; we stop urging others to get with the program, to get their act together or to sharpen up, and start to look for the particular form of debilitation, visible or invisible that every person struggles to overcome. We suddenly find instead, our understanding and compassion engaged as to why others may find it hard to fully participate.

– David White, from the essay Pain

It’s a reminder for me of how humbling – in a good way – the chronic fatigue has been for me.

I see it’s not always possible to pull ourselves up by the bootstrap, as I was used to in my twenties. I found a deeper and more honest understanding for myself and others, and the difficulties we experience.

It’s a reminder that “I” am not really in control. If life doesn’t play along, what I wish or plan for doesn’t happen.

It’s a reminder that we are all dependent on each other. I am not only dependent on the whole universe in its extent and history, the history of this living planet and humanity, the global and local ecological and social systems, but also the very simple everyday kindness of those around me.

It’s a reminder that it’s OK to ask for help. It’s OK to – very clearly and in a conventional sense – depend on others. It may even be a gift – to me and others.

It’s a reminder that we are all in this together. We all experience (what a thought would label) difficulties and challenges. We may all feel it’s too much, at times. We may all be brought to our knees, one or more times in our life.

I found how liberating it is to be a full human being rather than trying to live up to an image or the expectations of myself and others.

I found how liberating it is to be naked to myself and others.

I noticed who in my life was OK with this, and who were not. It naturally sorted my friends into those who stayed or came into my life, and those who left.

It helped me see that I don’t own anyone or anything. I don’t own my health, my energy, my clear mind, my engagement, my ability to follow through on what I plan. I don’t own people in my life. I don’t own my hopes and expectations for my life. I don’t own this mind or body. I don’t own this life. I don’t even own my fears. They all live their own lives.

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