What does pain look like? 

Reading about the formation of pearls, an irritant gets in between the mantle–the organ which produces growth of the shell–and the shell itself. It is akin to getting a splinter, something has gotten under your skin. And the oyster basically begins to grow a new shell around the irritant resulting a pearl. Something beautiful from something painful. 

After breakfast with my mentor I was left pondering my own splinter. It was offered that while open and vulnerable and expressive via this medium, I was not always as receptive to such connection in person. It was something I’d heard before. People expressing to me that after reading my blog(s) and meeting me, that I was much different in person. One persons even called me cold. It bothered me then, but perhaps I was not so ripe to begin the process of pearl making at those times. 

I’ve found myself being more open than ever with my life and life experiences, and yet if anyone were to ever approach me to have a conversation about something I’ve written, I would be terribly apprehensive. I though that maybe it was because when I was a kid I was constantly called too sensitive and learned to lock my emotions up tightly. But the truth is I’m just scared. 

I’m afraid of crying in front of people who may or may not offer me comfort. I’m afraid of reaching out my hand for connection to be met with nothing in return. I’m afraid of becoming too dependent on someone who may leave. I’m afraid of losing me in we. I’m afraid that I’m not as good as I’ve written myself out to be and that I’ll be a disappointment. I’m afraid that even after bearing my soul someone will look at it and realize I’m not what they wanted after all. That’s what naked honesty gets you. That’s what vulnerability gets you. 

And I can say logically, what if the oyster so feared sand irritants that he never opened his mouth? We would have no pearls, but also the oyster would die. He would not grow, and he would starve. So I mustn’t be like the scared oyster and I have to take a chance on exposing myself! 

Easier said than done. 

I take my mentors offering as my grain of sand. Right now it’s just irritating the shit out of me. But deep down I recognize that as an artist, I want to be congruent with my art. And as someone who wants to help others step into their best selves, I have to be willing to do the same. 

My 2015 word is love. And in the first six months of the year I thought it would be about finding love in things and people. What I now accept is that perhaps solely, but definitely simultaneously, it is also about loving me. Loving me enough to be bare and hold my head high so as to say, This is me. Pain, I think, is what it looks like when we are too afraid to do that. Too caught up in what would have been, could have been, allegedly should have been…pain is the emotive manifestation of non acceptance. But pain can also be our splinter, and it can be our opportunity to make something beautiful from something that hurts. 

I posted the following photo and caption on Instagram: 

One of the things that happens when you experience #sexualassault is #victimblaming. You ask yourself what you could have done differently? Better? Then, if you report it, cops, detectives, even some friends and family will ask you the same thing. Why didn’t you scream? Why didn’t you run? Why didn’t you fight? And in your lack of answers you begin to make deposits in the bank of self-depreciation. Never owning all the while that your #silence or your #stillness was really your #bravery and how you saw best to #survive in that moment. I say this to the part of me that hurts the most, “You are doing the best you can. And my darling, that is more than #enough. You are more than enough.” Your body is not a cavern of misfortune or mishandled reaction. Your body is a testament to your #resilience. Your body is the keeper of your #light. You cannot be dimmed. You cannot be shut out. You survived. And you must make the choice to do so again and again always until your work is done. #Onward

I struggled with the idea of sharing it on Facebook. Not because people would see, because my Instagram is not private nor is my tumblr, but because on Facebook those are the people in my life who would speak out to me. Family. Good friends. Professors. Mentors. Colleagues. That’s who might reach out to me. Who would seek connection. And I had to admit to myself that I was terrified of that. I also had to admit that daring to love myself in such a bold way was pretty brave. And that I was proud of both the photo and the caption. I had to own that this was me. It really really was. Nothing I’ve ever posted has ever felt more like me. 

It was or it is a marked change in the way I interact with my work. I did not want to just express and expell, I want my work and my writing to be tangible in me through me as me in person as well. Because it was me. And perhaps I was just tired of wearing the mask to protect myself. Pain, I realize, can be the first step in a shift towards authenticity towards acceptance. 

I used to crave comments on my blog. I used to want shares and reblogs and people tagging friends to my work… And now I wonder if I could hold having those same people at dinner discussing whatever topic at length with real depth? I am working towards that place. I imagine falling deeply in love with my own being, so much so, that masks and walls just block my light and I much prefer to stand nude in front of the world risking ridicule for the sake of artistic freedom and personal happiness. I crave the day when I maybe think twice, but do not allow the possible opinions of others stop me from living in my truth. I want people to read and see and talk to me and feel each of the interactions was a rich as the other. I want to be congruent. Not at war with my hurt, but owning it as part of me. Not fighting with shame but exposing it. Not fearful of vulnerablity, but using it as a tool for connection. 

Anything other than that is a life less than the one I am capable of living. 

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3 thoughts on “What does pain look like? 

    1. Thank you for commenting. It’s a little less scary to know that someone else shares your fears. Because then you’re not taking it on alone.

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