Aha! As I read Margalit’s response to my question about what could be the opposite of pain, I think I can finally collect the thoughts about “resiliance” that have been haunting me. Here is Margalit’s comment: “The opposite of pain is supposed to be pleasure, but I don’t think that’s actually correct. I think it’s peace. When you’re in pain, or when your body is in some sort of destructive mode, you feel pain, but you also feel out of balance with your enviroment. So for me, it seems like the calm and peace of being pain free is about as good as it gets.”
Yes – peace – not just absence of suffering, but that feeling of being – existing in harmony, with a flame of joy or life within, an awareness of just – being – and knowing that somehow you have your space int the world, and you will get through wherever life’s journey takes you next. I can see that as the opposite of pain and lack of balance.
I’ve been wondering about our power of resiliance as human beings, and whether our society encourages us to be resiliant or actually encourages us to stay wounded and stuck. Here’s a bit of the book that got me thinking – the book is “Against an Infinite Horzion: The Finger of God in Our Everyday Lives” by Ronald Rolheiser. It references a story in the Bible where Jesus cures a paralyzed person and says “take up your bed and walk” whereupon the person jumps up, takes his stretcher, and is cured.
“Daniel Berrigan once wrote that if Jesus returned to earth [he would say] ‘take up your couch and walk! You have skin to cover raw nerves; you don’t have to be that sensitive!’ … as human beings we have tremendous powers of resilience, and we owe it to ourselves and to our world to claim them. Otherwise we will never come to comunity … to stay with each other … singularly the most difficult task that there is. We cannot ever be close to anyone for long wihtout seriously hurting that person and that person seriously hurting us. Hence community depends upon us having the resilience to fogive, forget, bounce back, and live in some joy and happiness despite being hurt and wounded. And all of us are wounded … this damage … is permanent, but not fatal. Today, however it is in vogue to live as if it were fatal. So much … enocurages us to be hypersensitive … therapy itself can be good, however … it can also become an excuse for not claiming the resilience and toughness … without which we cannot live with each other … Sensitivity to our wounds and dysfunctions [takes us to a point where] we can no longer take the normal bump and grind that is simply part of all livng and relating … there is a time for claiming one’s hurts and licking one’s wounds, but there is also a time for claiming one’s resilience and to get on with the hard … task of living and working together – despite and beyond the fact that we hurt.”
Let me confess right away that I am still chewing over the difference between being resilient (ie. “bouncing back”) and new growth. I doubt we can ever “bounce back” to being just who we were before the hurt – even if that’s what we’d like to do. I think we become something different in the process of finding peace, joy, and balance again.
I also wonder if there’s some force in our society that has a vested interest in our not claiming our powers of resilience, or toughness. Since I do believe in a force of good and a force of evil (God & evil are the terms I would normally use), that would be something I would speculate about. But then it could be something like our consumerist culture. After all, you’re not going to convince someone to buy your product unless you generate the sense that life is not complete without it, right? I’ve heard that when people shop, it is like a fantasy about what having these clothes, this car, etc. will mean to them and their lives – how it will transform everything. If you go into the store believing you have everything you really need, what incentive do you have to buy stuff? (note: this is coming from a woman who wants to pitch 90% of her wardrobe to go shopping for things that actually fit and that make me feel like I’m looking good. I am also expert at buying tons of scrapbooking stuff that has not been used.)
And when I relate this to my own pain about the IF journey – well, while ttc, I definitely crawled under a rock at pretty much every opportunity. I was too sensitive to walk down the street or to take the subway some days. I think that an increased awareness and recognition from society as a whole might have gone a long way to easing the pain. Perhaps if there was a greater sense of a place for IF women and men, the childfree/less, etc – then going through IF wouldn’t feel quite as much like being a fish out of water. The sense that it was a private, shameful thing may have kept it festering longer instead of allowing for healing to set in. Perhaps these same factors are at play in other, major betrayals and pain that people suffer – sexual abuse, infidelity in marriage, addiction – any experience or state of being seen as something “you just don’t talk about” – if these were more openly understood and accepted, with the realization that it could happen to anybody, I think healing would happen more quickly and naturally. (hmm – but does this put the onus on society to accept as opposed to the individual to claim the power of resilience??)
This involves being willing to be open to others’ pain, to be less eager to see “winners” and “losers” and to not have a vested interest in seeing ourselves as winners. And the funny thing is, the stress it creates within us to constantly be able to claim we are a “winner” takes us away from peace and towards stress and imbalance as we try to find a way to be a “winner.” If I’d begun by accepting IF as a medical issue, and a big challenge to making my dreams come true – instead of something that made me a “loser” – I bet that healing, resilience, and moments of peace would have come more easily, and sooner. Instead, even now bitterness can come over me at times. Maybe I just need to figure out how to claim this gift of resilience.