Most of us don’t choose pain.
Normally, we would not want to be hurt. From the time we are born, we are conditioned to find safety wherever we can find it. It never lurks in the shadows found near the house at the end of the street…it never is trapped in the current of the creek behind the school…it isn’t in the scowl of the old lady living next door.
Safety is found in the embrace of a loved one…in the comfort of being home…in the limits we place upon ourselves. We develop our own rules and repeatedly draw and redraw the lines in the sand, faltering between how far we will go and how cautious we will be. Many of us even notice our hesitation as enter unfamiliar territory and before we can even begin to pick up speed, we throw on the brakes and almost come to a screeching halt.
The sense of being guarded and withdrawn becomes a way of life. Even when we tempt life a little by venturing out of our normal protected gaze, we find that no matter how little our attempt, the pain always seems to be too great for a second try. So, we stay close to what we know. Like the cattle that quickly learned their boundaries through a small electrical shock, we eventually do not go anywhere near the fence. The cost of the jolt carries much to high a price so we avoid it all together.
Over the course of 40 years, I had been conditioned to stay safe and to follow the rules. I was the greatest rule follower. In some respects, I still am. One speeding ticket when I was 19 conditioned me to never speed again and here I am ticket free ever since. The one time I succumb to peer pressure and go with my basketball team to toilet paper a classmates house, we get busted by his older brother…and locked in on their property behind a 12 foot rod-iron fence. Let’s just say that toilet paper I had in my hand never made it to the bushes or trees in the yard — it served a much better purpose that night.
Most of us don’t like to feel uncomfortable.
We ask ourselves, “Why would I challenge the status quo even for a fraction of a moment if I didn’t have to?”
Looking around, chances are we see no one else “testing the waters”, so why should we?
A few weeks ago, I was clearing out my garden and as I was pulling out the metal stake that held the tomato cage in place, my grip slipped and the full force of my pulling was immediately slammed into the top of that metal stake via my elbow. Within a day, my elbow was tender to the touch and began to have noticeable swelling around it. If I accidentally forgot and hit it against anything, I screamed again. My neighbor who happens to be an xray tech figured I chipped a bone when I slammed my elbow onto the top of that metal stake.
In the last week, my body endured over 34 hours of walking, jogging, and running and in the course of the 3rd straight day of pounding my body against the hard pavement, I suffered a stress fracture in my foot while running a half marathon. I didn’t hear the pop, but the very visible hobble in my step told everyone that something was very wrong. The next day, I woke up to swelling near the outside of my ankle and putting pressure on my foot was nearly impossible.
But I will take the pain.
Not because I like it or want t see how much I can endure. (Okay, maybe I want to see how much I can endure a little bit.)
Because they remind me that I am still alive. Just as every scar tells a story, these broken bones reminded me that I am still here. That I needed to stay in the fight instead of walk away from it because it seemed impossible to win or not worth the effort. I played that game for years and I never learned anything from playing it safe. Other than I was safe.
Now, I want more. I need more. Never again will I become so immune to life that I no longer feel the stun of its electrified moments. Removing myself from the chance of getting hurt in turn removed me from the only thing that could set me free. If someone told me when I was younger that it would only hurt for a second, I never would’ve believed them.
What sorts of challenges will you grant yourself permission to accept? How will you conquer your fears and move against the grain instead of with it? Why are you complaining about being stuck behind a fence when you are the once who chooses to stay behind the fence?
Eventually, we find our way to the “outside” of the fence and are able to look in. Now, I understand that the spark that comes from testing the power found in the fence is merely a question in how much we want to stay safe or not. We need to realize that the best power is not found in the surge of the shock that comes when we test the voltage — instead the best power is found in the person who keeps going even after they have been shocked. The ones who never quit.
I can honestly say that I have been on both sides of the fence — on the inside never imagining that I would need to escape the safety I had created for myself and on the outside wondering when the next adventure would begin.
Being on this side of the fence, I know that I am stronger than I ever thought I was or ever could be. No matter what life threw my way, that I was going to handle it and fight for everything I wanted. It was going to hurt. It was going to be uncomfortable. It wasn’t going to be easy. Just like life.
And it took two broken bones to remind me of that.
Michelle A. Homme 2015 ©