Three things I realise I have learned about life as I have reflected on recent surgery to remove a tumour from my bladder.
1. There is no growth without pain – All growth involves change. Change always brings discomfort because we are taken out of what we know well into new areas of learning and practice. This starts early for all of us.
- eg. a baby learning to walk – involves bumps and bruises from falling over and hitting head on tables etc.
- It is always scary starting new things. I remember the first day at Infants school I was crying at lunch time in the playground. The head mistress was an ugly old lady and she asked me what was wrong in a less than kindly manner. I left the school yard and ran all the way home.
- Before I started primary school, I remember being nervous – mostly of the unknown. They had assembly where they were called to attention and then sang the national anthem and recited a pledge and then were called to stand at ease. I remember being worried I would get it wrong.
2. There is no improvement and certainly no mastery without pain
- Mastery only comes by facing what you do not know and having a go at it, getting some things right and some wrong, and having another go. Over time and much practice, you begin to improve and attain some level of mastery. For me this has applied to almost everything – such as golf lessons, cricket coaching, playing soccer, to sales pitches, winning new clients, writing my first book, and then working with an editor to re-write it, not once but twice, to attain a better product.
- Getting fit at 52 was very painful, after years of not looking after myself because I was too busy doing important work running a large organisation. After I burned out and lost my way, and resigned that position, I began fitness classes 3 times per week. The first 3 weeks were incredibly painful. After I pushed through that muscle pain, I began to enjoy the process of fitness and strength training. The stress release associated with workouts and PT sessions was amazing and probably would have saved me from losing my way emotionally while doing my very stressful job.
3. There is no healing without pain
- In my current situation I have just had surgery to remove a tumour from my bladder. The tumour was discovered almost by accident. Amazing grace. I had zero pain and almost zero symptoms before I had an ultrasound that discovered the little bugger. The pain started with the medical treatment. Interestingly, if I was guided by how I felt, I would not have had surgery. I felt fine. Strong. No symptoms. Chemotherapy was not painful but was disorienting and made me feel brain fog. It created a bitter metallic taste in my mouth and made me feel very unwell on the inside. Surgery has thumped me hard. Literally like being stabbed in the stomach (for a purpose) and now I sit at home recovering, with everything slow and uncomfortable. My prayer and hope are that I will gain in strength and be able to rebuild fitness so I can be back at work without a nasty little tumour growing in my bladder. A tumour the doctor said had the potential to be life-threatening.
- Fractured relationships are difficult to heal. The process of forgiveness, and rebuilding of connection is awkward and more than most of us can handle. Getting to the point where trust is rebuilt, and relationship is truly restored is a huge journey which involves much patience, empathy, time and grace. I have been on that journey with my daughters after my marriage to their mother ended in divorce. That journey was incredibly painful and took many years of me biding my time and my tongue, and even being willing to let them go when they found it too difficult to connect with me at all. Now things are wonderful with all 3 of them.
So why are we so afraid of pain?
It’s as if we have all been sold a lie that pain is bad. Most people live as if pain is to be avoided. Emotional pain, discomfort, struggle, feeling out of control, all these things are part of the challenge of modern living. We have become addicted to control. As if we are really in control of our next breath or heartbeat anyway. It would be amusing, if it was not causing so much havoc for a large percentage of people in our so called educated, and civilised world.
We should be more afraid if there is not some level of discomfort in our lives. That means we have ceased to grow in healthy ways and quite likely we are being overtaken by unhealthy habits that could kill us. As my wife reflected to me today, there is very little discomfort sitting on the lounge eating junk food and watching a Netflix series. Doing that occasionally is recreational. Doing it often leads to a sedentary lifestyle and adding large amounts of deadly visceral fat to our bodies.
A couple of questions to finish
What is the pain you are avoiding that you need to embrace in order to move forward in your life?
What is the pain you need to embrace in order to become the better version of yourself you long to be?