Mindfulness: Allow It

Common to all humanity, at least in my opinion, is the struggle to avoid pain. This includes avoiding the pain that can heal us as well.

I dropped a 45lb plate on my big toe a few years ago. That toenail eventually fell off. As it started to grow back, I dropped a tractor tire on it. Because the growth process took so long, I developed a callous that the nail could not extend past. When the nail could no longer grow, it began pushing back into the nail bed, causing pain. So, I went to the doctor and had my toenail permanently removed. Let me explain that process in the least graphic way possible. I was given a few shots in my toe, had the toenail cut out, acid was poured into the nail bed to prevent regrowth, and then alcohol was used to neutralize the acid. Overall, it wasn’t a bad experience. I went to the gym a couple hours later and had no problems. When I returned to the doctor about 10 days later, the toe needed debriding. I was not numb for this. It gets worse. After the doctor had debrided the toe, he noticed that part of the nail bed was not dead. Again, without being numb, he took a scalpel and tweezers and dug at the nail bed. He then used acid to kill it and alcohol to neutralize the acid. Imagine what that is like without a numbing shot. It needed to be done. The wound needed to be cleaned. The toe would’ve had more problems if the toenail grew in wrong.

Admittedly, the stupid toenail still managed to grow back, and I’m too afraid to have it worked on again. If it gives me problems, I will endure the pain of having it removed again.

That brings me to the real point. We are going to endure pain no matter what. The question is whether we will endure the pain that never changes and leaves us stuck or the pain that brings healing, growth, and opportunity.

I have been seeing a therapist for years; I have been seeing my current one for five years. For most of those five years, in keeping with the above illustration, I have endured the pain of a toenail trying to grow when it can’t. I have shown up time and time again, knowing it needs to be removed without being numbed, and I decide the pain can’t possibly be worth it. It isn’t that I make that conscious decision. I know what the pain of having a toenail feels like. I don’t know what the pain of removing it feels like.

The pain of trauma—keeping it a secret, hiding in the shadows, believing I brought it on myself, shame over the circumstances and who it was, and thinking no one can accept my experience or ME—is familiar. It is easier because it is familiar. It is easier because it is predictable. The thing is, being able to share it—actually saying what happened to give me a voice and know someone is listening, standing in the spotlight of my experience, allowing my experience to be normalized—or not, saying who it was, and giving myself compassion while it is also modeled for me—that is how the healing happens. But that is an excruciating process. It requires feeling.

If you follow my blog at all, you know I willingly opened up the wound. I started the debriding process, so to speak. I have cried; I have been confused. I have hurt. I have been angry. I have felt insecure, unloved, disgusted, betrayed, and so much more.

I started off most recently with an email to my therapist. I didn’t think I could speak what I was thinking, but I knew I could communicate it. I was willing. Willingness, for me, often comes from a gentle push. The gentle push can be simple reassurance, compassion, courage, and, in this case, something I heard in my Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction class.

“Allow it to be here because it already is.”

Why would I continue to fight something that is already here? It already happened. It hurts. It consumes me. It prevents me from being who I could be. It is HERE. Why shouldn’t I speak it? It already exists. It isn’t like I am actually speaking it into existence.

Now, when I sit in my therapist’s office, meditate, work out, hike, or whatever may be painful at the moment, I remind myself it is already here. Why fight what I am already experiencing? Allow it.

When I allow the discomfort, it passes. When I fight it, it gets bigger…and I get smaller.

“Allow it to be here because it already is.”

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