Death and pain are inevitable. If you're alive (which I know you are because you're reading this post), then you WILL experience pain in the future. It's not a matter of IF, it's a matter of WHEN. So, buckle up, because you're in training now.
We all want a breakthrough. We all want to be great and we want it to come naturally. Sadly, in order to experience breakthrough, something has to break. And breaking normally hurts. Sometimes the breaking happens all at once. It's a revelation. It's a dramatic change. A quick pain, like popping a bone back into its socket. Sometimes the breaking happens in a slow, ripping fashion. Like a stretch that moves from comfortable, to uncomfortable, to searing, to excruciating.
I'm in the stretch. I've been to "excruciating" before, but I've come back, spending most of the time at "uncomfortable" or "searing" depending on the day. At first, I despised the pain. I thought it was weakness. I thought that hurting so much I wanted to die meant I was a "low capacity" person. I thought it meant that I wasn't doing something right. Over time, as I continued to put one foot in front of the other, I'd catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and see a tiny change that I hadn't seen before. I wasn't tired like I would have been months before. I wasn't beaten down by little things that would have stressed me out before. It was like seeing a new ripple in a muscle that you didn't even realize you were working it out.
November 11, 2015 was one of those moments. I took a photo on my phone with a time stamp of 5:33am. I was sitting in the cardiac ICU in Charlotte, NC with my intubated firstborn lying 5 feet from me. (He had had heart surgery the day before to remove a narrowed section of aorta.) I had slept for 3 hrs in one of the family rooms since I knew he would be sedated overnight. The plan was to extubate him at 6am before the shift change, so I got up at 5am to pump milk for Avery which I was sending home in coolers every time anyone came to visit.
I was pumping to the rythmic humming of Macson's ventilator thinking, wracking my brain, desperately trying to figure out how THIS was my life. How was any of this real? The pain was excruciating. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and suddenly, I saw the muscle... I was living my #GOALS. Right then, in that moment, I was being EXACTLY the kind of mother I had prayed to become. I had been crushed, ground down to powder and yet still pushing, still giving, still pouring out every ounce of energy and love I had for the little people I had been given. All the stretching in the past had made me stronger, able to give more, to hold on harder, for longer. I had been despising the pain that was preparing me to be the mother they needed me to be. The pain was good. The pain meant I cared. The pain meant I was still pushing, still present. The pain meant I hadn't checked out. It meant I was still alive and still growing. I was still stretching. The more I stretched, the better I got at stretching, adapting, staying calm and pushing through the pain.
I still hurt sometimes. I'm still stretching and occasionally I wouldn't mind a break from it because it really does suck to hurt. But what I have learned is that despising the pain isn't the answer and trying to avoid it doesn't help because you WILL be in pain at some point. To the best of your ability, embrace the pain and see it for the training that it is. See it for the accomplishment that it is. If you're hurting, it means you CARE. It means that you're still pushing. It means you haven't shut down, which would be so much easier. If you're hurting, you're still here. You're surviving. You're getting stronger. Faster. Better looking. Okay, I don't know about that last one, but either way. Consider this your pat on the back from me. Good game. Keep going.