How many times do you think in a day, “I wish my life was different?” A wish that your baby's colic would go away. A wish that you had a job that you actually liked. A wish that your thighs were smaller, your boobs bigger, or your tummy flatter.
I wish that my hands didn't hurt. As a massage therapist with aching hands, I'm in good company. Most massage therapists don't last more than eight years in the field and the most common reason for leaving the profession is physical pain. I've had my share of physical discomfort over the course of my career. I once saw my doctor when I was dealing with lower back pain and she told me to avoid activities where I was on my feet for long periods of time and bending forward. More recently, when my neck was hurting, she said to not to look down so much. And with my hands, her advice was to eliminate strenuous use and get a brace to wear as close to 24/7 as possible. I have to remind my doctor what I do for a living. I stand. I lean forward. I look down. My hands have been my career for 14 years.
I have wished daily for my hands to feel better. By focusing on the pain in my hands, I avoided the greater pain of the eventual loss of my massage therapy practice and the fear of not knowing what comes next. By making my situation about my physical pain, I didn’t have to acknowledge my feelings of loss, regret, and fear.
Don’t we all do this? Focus on the little pain - like the way our bodies look or how much we want to stay at home instead of going to work - as a way of burying the other pain that feels too big to manage. Our attention on our little pain keeps us from having to make real change.
Our focus on the small keeps us on the wall, like Humpty Dumpty, afraid to fall.
When we’re on the wall, our thoughts can sound something like this:
I can't look at that, it's too big.
If I understand how I truly feel, it will overwhelm me.
If I feel the depth of my emotions, I'll fall apart and won't be able to put myself back together again.
We believe that falling into our big pain will leave us in irreparable pieces, a broken mess, like Humpty Dumpty, apres fall. But when we focus on the little pain so that we can avoid feeling the big pain - which is always there whether we acknowledge it or not - we spend our lives sitting on a very narrow wall, uncomfortable with the way things are but too afraid, too resistant, or too unsure to move.
"Sometimes what feels like falling is actually floating."
The purpose of life is to fall. To let go of our clenched grip on the wall. To accept the discomfort of not knowing what comes next. To take a chance. To stop wishing and make the deliberate decision to start doing. To float into the loveliness of what comes next, which will never ever come if we are sitting on the wall.
Falling for me now means accepting that my career as a massage therapist has ended. Massage felt like a calling for me; it’s not easy to leave. My work as a massage therapist connected me to a deep well of healing. I helped people feel better in their bodies and created a safe place for acceptance and peace to unfold. I like to think that I brought a connection to Love (with a capital L) through my work.
But wishing for my hands to stop hurting kept me on that narrow, uncomfortable, and unyielding wall. For a long time, it felt like letting go would feel like breaking. I was breaking a commitment that I had made with my clients to continue to help them. I felt broken in my body because it was no longer doing what I needed it to do for me.
I eventually realized that what felt truly broken was the wish that my situation was different. Not accepting my circumstances was like Humpty with a bottle of Elmer’s glue, a futile attempt to keep all of my parts and pieces from coming apart.
And so I fell. I accepted that I can no longer provide massage. I accepted that letting go of my massage therapy practice calls forth negative thoughts that I’m slowly working through with my intuitive, genuine, and nurturing life coach Christy Miller of Point Be Coaching. I accepted that I’m not really sure what comes next, which is a fact of life because none of us ever really do, no matter how diligently we plan.
“I think the ‘seeker's path’ is about arriving at a place, a bottom, where will and ego aren't big enough to serve the thing that you are after, which is truth,” says Tom Jay in Art As A Way Of Life by Roderick MacIver. “So you have to give up trying to control things. You attend to them. The difference is major. The path is about a larger, more mysterious context, which makes things scarier and more confusing, but it also makes beauty possible. Truth, like beauty, is not ultimately in your power, it is larger.”
I know that I will continue to attend to my mommy mentoring and life coaching practice and to my writing. I know that I have a very grateful husband who is overjoyed that I’m dusting off my administrative, human resources, and marketing skills to attend to our baby sign language business. I’m beginning to trust that something bigger than me has something big in mind for me.
Geneen Roth writes in her book Women, Food and God: “When you evoke curiosity and openness with a lack of judgment, you align yourself with beauty and delight and love - for their own sake. You become the benevolence of God in action.”
That’s the plan.