Maybe It’s Not Your Pain
In 12 Step recovery communities, they say, “We compare our insides to other people’s outsides.” Our insides are messy and often well-populated with fear, resentment, guilt, and doubt, while our own and other people’s outsides are more functional and presentable. When we compare our insides to other people’s outsides, we may feel worse…like we can’t measure up. We forget that others also have their inner turmoil. But we can’t see their insides, while we can’t ignore our own. This makes us feel more alone and less connected.
My poem below touches on this sense of isolation that strong pain can bring and suggests the possibility that our pain can instead actually contribute to a connection to others.
by Paul Chubbuck
This pressure on your chest,
like a great snake coiled around you,
which you strain against for each breath.
You say something is wrong.
You say it is your fear.
You say it’s your heart breaking.
This fury you hide in your center,
like a hard, hot stone,
too risky to allow to see the light of day.
You say this fire is wrath
from all your thwarted longings.
This loathing you feel in your belly,
a repugnance you try to retch,
though the demon cannot be easily cast out.
You call this nausea shame.
You name it your unworthiness.
You bear this burden as your own.
Perhaps you do not carry it alone,
Maybe this pain is not your pain.
Maybe it is The Pain
and you are joined by throngs
linked by an unseen weave.
Maybe your ire’s an ember we fan to flames
for all who long, unfulfilled.
Maybe it’s tinder the people need to set aflame
old cruelties our world needs no more.
Maybe it’s the coal fire in a great locomotive
speeding us towards a new frontier.
Maybe this pain you feel is the cry of humanity
birthing itself into a new life.
Surely many were called to that great labor.
Maybe you too have embraced that charge.
Maybe it’s not your pain.
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