BY PATIENCE BROWN
On the Stairs of Healing (1). . .
Pain, I’ve always been averse to it.
I could go to great extents to avoid pain: turn my back on the people who say they love me; refuse their help; ignore their kindness; anything it took to avoid pain, I could do.
Pain, I’ve always avoided it.
‘To not be hurt, draw no one close’, that was the creed.
‘If you don’t expect anything from anyone, they can’t disappoint you’, that was the principle.
‘Nobody owes you anything’, that was the rule.
‘It you don’t want your heart broken, keep it to yourself’, that was the law of life.
I lived avoiding pain. I lived avoiding true relationships. I lived alone.
Oh, you’d never catch me neglecting anyone,
You’d never catch me not doing my very best for another,
You’d never catch me not being an epitome of goodness. . .
But you’d never catch me expecting love from anyone.
Never would you catch me expecting care from another.
No, my problems were my problems until I could solve them.
People have enough issues of their own, why should I compound them?
I ought to be a strong rock for another, I must never be the weak one.
I had to be strong for myself. I had to be strong for others.
No one needed to be strong for me.
First, you would never even know I needed your help, support, comfort or strength.
I was my own blend of perfectly self-sufficient
I had friends. Don’t get me wrong. I had friends. I just didn’t know how to let them through the door of my heart.
Oh I could do anything for my friends, I just didn’t know how to let them do anything for me.
Acts of kindness were a shock to me. And I avoided putting anyone in the uncomfortable position of thinking they owed me anything.
For long, for too long, I sat in a strong tower made of walls of fear, and the expectation of disappointment.
For very long, I sat in darkness. Totally incapable of enjoying human companionship.
Totally oblivious of how to process negative emotions, I just pretended I never had them. Or I’d just rationalize them away.
I never got angry.
You’d have to be someone important to offend me. And no one had the right to be that important!
Why should you have the right to offend me?
It would mean I was expecting proper behaviour from you. . .
And I never expected such from anyone.
I didn’t expect anything to last in my life. People were bound to leave or not care. Why get attached to any?
While you’re here, I’ll do my best for you
But were you to leave, it wouldn’t make a difference. It wouldn’t matter.
I had a zone to which everyone in my life belonged, the ‘They’re bound to disappoint you’ zone. So I never got my hopes up’
If you came late to an appointment, I wouldn’t be the least offended. Why? I wasn’t expecting any different from you.
I cushioned myself against the pain of disappointment by expecting nothing.
If you didn’t show up at all, it didn’t hurt. I wasn’t expecting you to keep your word anyway.
Right in the middle of your making a promise, I had an excuse ready for you.
So if you failed to keep that promise, I didn’t even require your apology,
No need. I never expected you to keep it.
When people did kind things to me, I would be grateful. And I would express it
When people didn’t do kind things, I never noticed. Truly, I cannot point to moments when I felt ill treated. It would mean I was expecting some better treatment. I had no such expectations.
Now that I think about it, I hardly noticed anything. You’d have to call my attention to something happening right in front of me.
This one amazes me still.
Either I was totally submerged in the serenity of my company or I considered human company too troublesome to pay attention to.
I was always oblivious!
Like I said, it amazes me still.
I do not know if anyone has ever succeeded in disappointing me.
Truly, you cannot disappoint someone who wasn’t expecting anything from you.
Lone ranger, I was.
I met my needs. Never desiring what I couldn’t afford. Never bothering anyone.
I was my own self-sufficient blend of perfect.
Always smiling. Always willing to help. Just not knowing how to be vulnerable to anyone. Not even to God
You didn’t stand a chance of hurting me.
I kept that wall in place- ‘Don’t bring anyone close, they’ll hurt you’
But that wall also kept out the other side of the coin. Well, people either hurt you or stay true to you.
By keeping out the pain of close relationships, I also kept out the joy of companionship
Ah! I’ve been alone too long! I’ll let people in. They may hurt me. But then they may not.
They may disappoint me, but then, what if they don’t?
I will expect good from people. They may let me down, but then they may not.
I’ve been conditioned by fear for far too long! I’ve sat in darkness for far too long!
I’ll take the risk. I’ll take the risk of friendships.
I’ll be vulnerable to this few people who say they love me. They’ve been stubborn enough to persist through my subtle toxicity.
I’ll walk into their embrace. I’ll open up and let them see all I have bottled inside.
I’ll honestly answer their questions. I’ll show them my fears. I’ll show them my scars. I’ll show them my imperfections. I’ll be vulnerable. I’ll tell them where I’m from. I’ll tell them how much I hate it. I’ll tell them how helpless and overwhelmed I sometimes feel.
At times, many times, I get tempted to run. To run to that my safe refuge. I get tempted to keep these few people at a distance; to make them powerless in hurting me.
But that would render them powerless in loving me too.
That would keep me in these conditioned walls of fear forever!
No! I’ll endure the pain of my healing.
If I must grow, I must endure the pain of change.
I’m not new to pain. . .
But this time around, it’ll be pain in the right direction.
I’ll endure the discomfort that healing demands.
I want to be healed. To live and love. To be a friend and have friends. I’ll learn; learn to be vulnerable to these people who though I have pushed away refuse to leave.
I’ll give hope a chance.
Am I afraid?
But that’s normal.
Where there will be growth, there must be change, and change demands the overcoming of fear.
I am afraid. But I want to be healed, much more than I want to avoid pain.
I’m learning to embrace pain, to endure the discomfort of the change that must grow me. I’m learning to walk the Stairs of Healing.
And when I say I’m learning, it is from the Holy Spirit. My very own psychologist.
He’s guiding me to live, truly live in the Land of the Living.
Having lost trust in my own strong tower, I put my trust in the Lord.
“The Lord is my refuge in whom I put my trust. How can you say to me, ‘Flee like a bird to your mountain'” – Psalms 16:1