“No Pain, No Gain” – Man Do I Hate That

Is there something wrong with me?  Am I the only person that has gotten the overwhelming urge to punch the person who’s saying this?  Sometimes it’s almost like they are happy to be able to tell you that your suffering is for your own good.  That without it there would be no growth; that you will be a “better person” for it.

Geez, just let me kick them in the teeth.  That may not make be a “better person”, but it will sure make me feel better!

OK, I got that off my chest…..now onto a reality of life – No Pain, No Gain.  Even though I really do hate it, at least for me, it’s true.  And it’s probably true for you too.  It certain is for butterflies (Okay, okay, indulge me with yet another butterfly illustration).

There’s a story about a well-intentioned man that illustrates this.  The story goes something like this;

A man is watching a butterfly struggle and struggle for hours to break out of its cocoon.  After a while the butterfly stops trying and the man thinks that the butterfly has given up so he decides to help by cutting the cocoon open with scissors.  Well, sure enough the butterfly is then able to emerge easily.

However, the butterfly is swollen and the wings are shriveled and it stayed this way; never being able to fly.

The unfortunate reality is that in trying to help the butterfly, the man instead freed the butterfly from the obstacle of the struggle to get out of the cocoon.  This very struggle is what forces the fluid from the butterfly’s body into the wings so that it can be ready to fly.  Without the struggle, the fluid did not transfer into the wings rendering the butterfly unable to ever fly. No pain, no gain.

We all get our turns at experiencing unsought pain or loss, the death of a loved one, a major illness, a break-up, accidents, economic hardships; life altering events.  And I guess the fact that I don’t like it, doesn’t have anything to do with it.

Truth be told, there have been times in my life when I have wished that there was someone who could come by with a giant pair of scissors and cut away my struggles.  But the moral of the butterfly as well as the reality of our lives is that even though our struggles are painful, without them we would not be as strong as we can be.  Through these struggles we build wisdom and strength.  We gain through pain.

On the other hand, not everyone emerges from their hardships or losses, albeit bruised, a better person.  Some folks do not move on.  They stay stuck in the suffering and become angry, bitter, and cynical people letting the hardship forever define them.

How have you come to be defined – by your strength or by your loss; by your struggles or by your victories?  By your pain or by your gain?

For those women that have managed to emerge from their cocoon of struggle with wings strong enough to take flight – how did they do it?  How do some people overcome struggles that would bury other folks?  How are some able to move passed even the worst of tragedies?  How do some people experience tremendous pain and gain strength while others crumble?  How can some walk away with wisdom and endurance and others fall into a ditch of perpetual despair and resentment?

We are all very similar and we are all very different.  What I mean by this is that we all have very similar instincts and abilities, maybe not in the same degree, but we have what we have and we need to use it.

So how do we get from here to there?  How do we move beyond tragedy, or disappointment, or loss?  How do we get pasted things that don’t have a resolution?  How do we reach a different attitude other than “I just want to crawl in a hole and die”?

It has never been easy for me, I wish I could tell you otherwise, but here are the ways that I have been able to gain from my pain:

Take time out to grieve and be mad as hell.

Whether your tough spot is of your own doing or if life just threw it at you.  We need to take time to mourn the loss and vent the fury before we can repair.  For me this involves crying, sleep, insane amounts of exercise, and the passage of time.

For me and for women in general crying is therapeutic, it releases stress and anxiety.  Sleep gives me rest and helps me to cope much better.  Exercise has been the key to prevent a free fall into depression.  And time eventually truly heals.

Resolve to get up every morning and continue breathing. 

The powerful strength and resilience of the human spirit.  It’s part of our will to survive and thrive no matter what.  Despite our fears, it’s the courage to keep moving and putting one foot in front of the other.   

I’ve always told myself that quitting is not an option and that nothing is going to take me down (as I stand, feet apart, fists clenched, facing the sky).  I tell myself that if someone else has done it then so could I.  It may take me longer and I may have to work harder, but I can do it too.

If you’ve read my posts long enough you know I’ve often written that I’m not any more special than you, I don’t possess any more abilities than you do, and I’m certainly not smarter than you are.  And I really do believe this, but I also believe that others aren’t particularly more special than me, or that they have a ton more abilities than me, or that they are much smarter.  THERFORE, if others have been able to overcome then so can I (again, as I say this as I stand, feet apart, fists clenched, facing the sky)!

Don’t trip and fall flat on your face because then you’ll need plastic surgery to repair your nose.

This is what happens when you try to walk forward with your eyes looking back.  Believe me I know this is hard.  It’s also a process that takes time, but your focus needs to be increasingly on the future and the possibilities that it holds even though you may not have any idea what those are.

It is natural to sense that there is no future when you are experiencing a great loss or hardship, but that isn’t true or rational.  Even if you don’t feel like it, be intentional and make a daily choice to look ahead with hope and the knowledge that it won’t always be this hard.  Walking with your eyes looking backward is a sure way to stumble and stay stuck in the pain and possibly needing rhinoplasty.

Reach out and let others touch you.

Don’t isolate yourself in your pain.  There’s nothing that you are experiencing that others haven’t also experienced.  Ask your friends or family how they endured and carried on or at least accept their well-intended invitations for lunch or a movie.  Don’t alienate yourself.

This is a bigee for me because my first instinct is to lock the door, draw the drapes, turn the phone off and crawl back into my cocoon of self-pity, pain, or shame.  Reaching out is not a natural or comfortable thing for me to do.  But it is such an important life line and you will be amazed at how much collective wisdom is out there.

By the way, if you have the rare family or group of friends that don’t have any wisdom or goodness to offer (I’d first say, “GET A NEW GROUP OF FRIENDS AND DISOWN YOUR FAMILY!”) then seek the help of a pastor, counselor, or therapist – which is a great idea any way.

Pray.  You are not in this alone.  Really.

A preacher once told me that he gets everyone’s attention much more at funerals than at weddings.

At weddings there is happiness and excitement.  Folks in attendance are eagerly looking forward to the happy couple’s future as well as to the drinking and feasting that await them once the ceremony is over. Basically, it’s party time.

At funerals people are in pain and looking for answers and comfort.  This is when they turn to God.  And that’s a great thing because God offers us a life of hope and He loves us beyond measure.  He will comfort and guide you.  If you are in relationship with God, wonderful, keep talking to him.

If you are not, don’t let your mistakes, or rebellion, or simply passive indifference keep you separated from Him just when you need Him the most.  Ask Him for help.  Do it now, do it today.

Life is better with God than without Him.

So, even though I hate it, it’s through the tough times that we have our greatest opportunities to learn and grow.

written by

Emily is publisher and editor-in-chief of Mariposa Magazine. She's passionate about the hugely important role that Latinas play in the well-being and advancement of their families. She writes about Latina success stories and observations on life.
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