I Guess You Gotta Treat Pleasure and Pain the Same…

Yesterday I was in a black, black mood. I woke up with my neck in so much pain it was hard to turn, my head full of disappointments and broken expectations, and a wounded ego that just wanted to stay in bed under the covers all day. Being in the middle of a heat wave, that option wasn’t on the table, but the whole bed=good, everything else=suck equation was definitely in full force.

So, I did. Stay in bed, that is. And I used some of that time to cry, because that’s how I express strong emotions. And I used that time to smoke pot and watch TV, because that’s how I hide from my emotions. (Seriously, though, Grace & Frankie is surprisingly fucking awesome.) and I used that time to try to figure out what the hell was going on inside my head and my heart to bring me to this place of drawn curtains and ice cream cravings.

In the past, I’ve let these moods sink me for days. I’ve let them take root, falling into the idea that what I’m feeling will be what I am always feeling. When I extrapolate out like that, the future seems very dim indeed, but that is how it feels. Pain, pain, everything is pain. It’s an oddly comforting place to be, I think at least in part because that would mean I know what to expect. Even if it sucks. Like going to McDonalds: you know what you’re going to get.

Except life doesn’t work that way.

Life flows. Life moves. And we move along with it. Sometimes with grace, sometimes kicking and screaming, sometimes without even realizing we’re along for the ride.

The journey brings pain, as sure as breathing. If I like, I can zero in on that pain, nurture it and let it blossom like a black, fetid rose. I can choose to ignore, or even fight, the pleasure and happiness that comes my way by being so intent on my misfortunes. In this way, I bring in pain twofold— by cultivating it and welcoming it into my life, and by struggling against any happiness I might find, often because I think I don’t deserve it, and the rest of the time because I think it’s fake.

But as sure as my heart aches, it sings as well. I’m all about cultivating happiness, nurturing the beauty in my life and pouring out gratitude for every awesome thing that comes my way. Maybe this brings me more happiness and joy through attraction, or maybe I’m just more aware of it, or both, but these practices lend a brightness to my life which I find invaluable.

Taken from a slightly different perspective, though, the enjoyment of pleasure can turn as ugly and limiting as an obsession with pain. This comes when I choose to chase pleasure. When I choose to grasp it, and hold on for dear life even as it slips from between my fingers, smothered by my desire.

When I glorify pleasure and in turn demonize pain, I lose the ability to appreciate any of it, because I’m too busy striving for one and avoiding the other to just be. It becomes a state of fear. Fear that I’ll lose my precious joy, and fear that I will have to experience that wicked pain. Thing is, pleasure and pain are the same thing. They’re emotions. They’re experiences. They do not define me, they do not define my life.

Above all: They are transient. As ephemeral as the clouds. Sometimes it rains for days and days. Sometimes it feels like it will never stop raining. And sometimes it feels like this great golden sun shining down on me couldn’t possibly pale or hide itself away, and yet it does.

This, too, shall pass.

My perspective has shifted significantly in the last year. I’m moving towards the point where I can let these emotions into my life, enjoy them for what they bring and how they enrich my humble journey, and let them pass again. I’m not there, yet. Not sure I can ever truly get there, but I can sure as hell move in that direction.

We all can.

I lovelovelove you all,

Sarah