…I am not really a Harry Potter fan, but there`s one JK Rowling quote from “The order of the Phoenix” that has made a huge impression on me:
I DON’T CARE!” Harry yelled at them, snatching up a lunascope and throwing it into the fireplace. “I’VE HAD ENOUGH, I’VE SEEN ENOUGH, I WANT OUT, I WANT IT TO END, I DON’T CARE ANYMORE!”
“You do care,” said Dumbledore. He had not flinched or made a single move to stop Harry demolishing his office. His expression was calm, almost detached. “You care so much you feel as though you will bleed to death with the pain of it.”
Pain is a pesky part of being human, and it`s something none of us can escape. At some point we all experience pain, emotionally or physically, like a stab wound to the heart.
The month of April at Mirna`s Aerobic Studio was one of highs and lows – we celebrated our successful New Year Challenge, but we also grieved the loss of Thoko Khumalo, a dear member. This 60-year-old beloved teacher, grandmother and fitness friend was loved and admired by everyone, and it`s almost unthinkable that Thoko`s blue Mercedes will never again park in its familiar spot at 16.00…
I have been beating myself up over the fact that my last message to Thoko on WhatsApp was an emoji – a hands joined in prayer emoji, not a “Are you in hospital?”, “how are the girls?”, or a “please let me know if I can be of help?” One moment she was texting that she had tested positive for Covid, a week later she was gone…
And to think that only a week before, at our Challenge prize giving ceremony, I prided myself in the fact that my members are friends, not clients. Losing Thoko was a wake-up call for me to care more and to be more attentive. Much more.
As the famous French writer Voltaire once said: “Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do…”
I don`t know about you, but I sometimes get a bad case of 3:00 am guilts – you know, when you lie in bed awake and replay all those things you didn`t do right. Because, as we all know, nothing solves insomnia like a nice warm glass of regret and should-haves or should-have-nots.
I guess that is what George R Martin refers to in “Game of thrones” when he says: “Some old wounds never truly heal, and bleed again at the slightest word.”
Beating ourselves up…I sometimes wonder why it has become such a thing. I hardly ever heard this term when I was a kid. Dr Michelle Cleere, a global performance coach, recently wrote about this in her Blog. She explains that we live in an age of perfection, and that we therefore often fall victim to beating ourselves up. For some of us it is merciless while others are easily able to brush it off.
We are all wired differently when it comes to guilt. The best example comes from Michael Pollan`s book, “An eater`s manifesto”: He showed the words “chocolate cake” to a group of Americans and recorded their word associations. “Guilt” was the top response. If that strikes you as unexceptional, consider the response of French eaters to the same prompt: “celebration.”
But one thing is certain – our minds tend to have minds of their own, so much so that they often convince us that thoughts are facts and that we have an indisputable reason to feel guilty, sad, or anxious. That`s why we often perseverate over our mistakes, relive the past or hold on to pain.
I think one of the hardest things you’ll ever do is give yourself permission to be in pain of any kind. There’s a reason we have survival instincts, so that we don’t die. That goes for humans, animals, all the fishes in the sea, everyone. Some researchers say that even plants feel pain and a cucumber will scream when you cut it. (And some others say that’s crap because they have no brain or central nervous system.) The point is, we’re all wusses. And emotional pain is the worst.
“Emotional pain can become an addiction”, says transformative author Rainie Howard in her book “You are enough”. But there`s such a very fine line between allowing yourself to experience pain and storing them so long that they have freezer burn. And yet, I believe with my whole heart that real power comes from being vulnerable enough to FEEL hurt.
Melody Beattie, one of America`s most beloved self-help authors explains this beautifully in her book “The language of letting go”: “If we are being pelleted by pain, there is a lesson. It takes courage to be willing to stand and feel what we must feel. Pain hurts. Grief hurts. But we can trust that if we must feel the pain, it is part of healing. And when we are ready, with our Higher Power`s help, we can summon the courage to let it go, and let the pain move us forward.”
I shared Scott Egleston`s therapy fable with our Challenge members, but I would like to share it again, with you. Because over the last two weeks it has started to make even more sense to me. It goes like this:
Once upon a time, a woman moved to a cave in the mountains to study with a guru. She wanted, she said, to learn everything there was to know. The guru supplied her with stacks of books and left her alone so she could study. Every morning, the guru returned to the cave to monitor the woman’s progress. In his hand, he carried a heavy wooden cane. Each morning, he asked her the same question: ” Have you learned everything there is to know yet?” Each morning, her answer was the same. “No.” she said, ” I haven’t.” The guru would then strike her over the head with its cane.
This scenario repeated itself for months. One day the guru entered the cave, asked the same question, heard the same answer, and raised his cane to hit her in the same way, but the woman grabbed the cane from the guru, stopping his assault in midair.
Relieved to end the daily batterings but fearing reprisal, the woman looked up at the guru. To her surprise, the guru smiled. ” Congragulations.” he said, ” you have graduated “. You know now everything you need to know.”
” How’s that”? the woman asked.
” You have learned that you will never learn everything there is to know,” he replied. ” And you have learned how to stop the pain”.”
“Time doesn’t heal emotional pain, you need to learn how to let go”, writes Roy Bennett in “The light of the heart”.
Pain IS a sudden hurt that cannot be escaped. It`s our companion, for life.
But, because of pain, we can feel the beauty, tenderness, and freedom of healing. We must feel it to heal it. Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
Thoko, Lilly, mom, it hurts, this business of life. Sometimes it hurts so much we want to scream like Harry Potter, “We`ve had enough!” I know there`s more I could have done, but for now I`ll just let the guilt remind me to do better. Today. And tomorrow.
Yours in fitness
082 779 0507