Playing hurt

Everybody’s hurt.
What is important, what corrals you, what bullwhips you,
what drives you, torments you,
is that you must find some way of using this to connect you with everyone else alive.
This is all you have to do it with.
You must understand that your pain is trivial except insofar
as you can use it to connect with other people’s pain; and insofar as you can do that with your pain,
you can be released from it,
 insofar as I can tell you what it is to suffer,
perhaps I can help you to suffer less.
You have some kind of breakthrough,
which is your first articulation of who you are:
that is to say, your first articulation
of who you suspect we all are.

James Baldwin

I always get a kick out of the sports announcers telling us that this particular player looks like he’s going to continue “playing hurt.” An indication of his extraordinary courage and strength, loyalty to the team etc etc. We always put athletes on pedestals. While all of us humans are always playing hurt. If we are honest each of us is so broken, so damaged, fighting so many issues— confidence, trauma, inadequacy, loneliness, anxiety, and stress. But that makes us interesting, unique and special too. We figure out ways to navigate through our own pain. And this distracts us from the pain of others.

Unless we are living amongst mind readers, telepaths, and psychics, no one understand us—and we don’t understand each other.

As Philo said, Everyone we meet is fighting a great battle.– and that includes us.

In witnessing, contemplating, and empathizing with what is happening around us. We all have more injuries.

So we play hurt. We live hurt. And the people around us are hurt too.

It’s easy to be connected when things are good, to celebrate our achievements, our successes and when we are happy in those brief and fleeting moments. What is challenging is to connect broken hearts and take small steps to share and care for one another. To find the common ground of our pain.

If we keep this inside, we can hurt ourselves and others. But as Baldwin advises, it is our suffering that should bring us together.

But verbalizing our pain to every bystander. Just blurting out our mental health status to the world at large. Openly informing everyone how you are triggered and traumatized is not the solution.
This is just selfish.

Self-centered. And pure ego—”my needs supersede yours”.

Not saying don’t call out bad behavior or to discretely discuss your personal challenges, but the pain we face as humans is shared and part of the human experience.
It is all about compassion.

The Latin root for the word compassion is pati, which means to suffer, and the prefix com- means with. Compassion, literally means to suffer with.

Your hurt and pain are totally legit. Real. And requiring healing time and attention.

But what pain is totally unique to you and you alone?

Who hurt you? Who did you hurt? Are two sides of the same coin. They are melded together. No injury justifies hurting others. But pain is a transferable energy. Pain begets pain.

35 years ago, my wife Sarah and had just finished an enjoyable meal with friends and were in the parking lot getting into our car. I was opening the car door and Sarah was entering the passenger side, when a small car raced up and screeched to a halt behind us. Two young men jumped out, one remained in the car. I was immediately shoved down onto the hood of the car and a shiny revolver was jammed into the temple of my head and I hear, “You better have a $100 or you are a dead man!” He took my wallet and luckily, I had a bunch of small bills, maybe $50. I told him to take it all. During this time Sarah was telling them not to hurt me. The other perpetrator was yelling profanities about the death of his grandmother. And as only Sarah can, she empathized, “I am so sorry about your grandmother…”, she exclaimed. He responded with another tirade. I am thinking, please shut up Sarah! Why don’t you tell him to have a nice day and get his address so we can send a Xmas card?!!! But it is clear Sarah’s extraordinary compassion diffused the situation. No one was physically injured. He flung my car keys down the alley way and the perpetrators sped off.

According to the Buddha, our reaction to being hurt can be equivalent to a second injury. A self-inflicted wound. We double down on our suffering. We typically react by hurting ourselves and others. We mistakenly believe somehow that this will mitigate the pain.

Our pain, our suffering is a symptom of something else. What is it? We have to accept it because it is happening. We have to find the opportunity to understand it and to use it to grow. And we must push ourselves to see that this pain connects us to others.

How the story of this pain gets sculpted to define us versus inspire us, is our fulcrum of fate and failure.

Are we what has happened to us? Of course.

But we are so much more.

I am not what has happened to me. I am what I choose to become. Carl Jung

We have unique pain. Pain that has emerged through us through a kaleidoscope of genetic, experiential, and emotional content that is definitively you. But as much as you are special, we are the same.

All of the fish are ingesting the water they traverse.

All of the plants experience the rain and the drought.

Yes, humans have reason and choice—at least theoretically. And the environmental pressures, social milieu, and the mind’s interpretation of all, push us further into the delusion of individuality and separateness.

And until we see what binds us, what connects us, we will never be relieved of what hurts us.

Pain is ubiquitous. Pain is universal. Suffering is part of life.

We will be reminded deeply of our shared humanity and that discovery, that articulation of who we are, who we all are, gives us solace. Provides us with the empathy and compassion to love one another.

Self-help is a misnomer. We all want to be strong individuals with agency and direction but can’t do it alone. It’s isolation and separation that is destroying the fabric of our humanity. Real intimacy is only achieved through a mutual vulnerability and loving each other.

Our hurting is the final exam of love. The love that binds us. Love that brings us together.

When the heart is supple, it can be “broken open” into a greater capacity to hold our own and the world’s pain: it happens every day. When we hold our suffering in a way that opens us to greater compassion, heartbreak becomes a source of healing, deepening our empathy for others who suffer and extending our ability to reach out to them. Parker Palmer

Wild Geese
You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting — over and over announcing your place in the family of things.

– Mary Oliver

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