Joy and Pain Killers

At approximately 9:00am last Saturday, I was tailoring the last remaining outfits for the afternoon’s show when I was running champagne taffeta through my machine and in a split second, ran my thumb under the needle. Thank God this time I didn’t break the needle. However, the tip of my left thumb was split open and gushing blood. I ran for the restroom and realized I don’t have any band-aids, so instead I wrapped up the nick with toilet paper and applied pressure. I knew I had too much on my mind and that’s why this accident occurred. I had no time and tried to get back to work yet I couldn’t. I kept bleeding through the tissue and I was concerned I’d bleed all over the dress. I got a wad of tissue, wrapped my thumb again and Scotch-taped it securely. Within the next half hour, one of my BFFs, Lynella, stopped by to bring me coffee, scones and flowers (she really is the BEST) and to check to see how I was doing. I powered through and she was amazed how quickly I sewed through the garments (I think completing the dress Cati wore within 30 minutes and without my blood all over it…yes, blood, sweat and tears goes into every piece I create). Her presence one would think may have been a distraction, actually provided the focus I needed to complete the task.

My finger has a heartbeat.

My finger was still throbbing like it had a pulse and applying pressure to it wasn’t helping. However, I still had much to do. During the period of 9 hours I completed tailoring 7 looks and creating two, AND, on only 5 hours of sleep (I was up late the night before trying to get out of my head—looking for release—yet focusing on the millions of things left to do before the show).

I continued on with the day excited to produce another event and feeling very proud with my work. I didn’t let this painful reminder to stay focused prevent me from getting what I needed to get done. And I finally got a band-aid! Yet for the next week, as it healed, I continued to rub the affected spot with my index finger. This morning as I write, and the wound is almost healed, I feel how the surface has changed. It is a little rougher while my body works to heal from within.

“What pain do you want in your life? What are you willing to struggle for?” – Mark Manson

Pain comes to us in different ways. It is reminder that something is wrong or that growth is needed…remember those growing pains as a child. It’s about the human experience. You cannot experience true joy without some sort of struggle, labor and pain along the way. You cannot experience success without putting in the work, long hours, challenges, and barriers. Because I have bills to pay, I work full-time in order to do my passion project on the weekends, evenings and early mornings. I’m absolutely exhausted after fashion shows, yet always completely satisfied. You cannot have fulfilling relationships without moments of awkward silence, hard conversations, honesty and problems. I am currently reading the book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson. Now if you’re not a fan of cursing, well, then this book may not be for you as there is a smattering of Fuck throughout, but if that doesn’t bother you, then it’s a quick read that has made me think about pain as the author writes about it being a natural part of life and how it helps truly understand what you want in life….what’s worth struggling for.

I understand fully the concept that you can’t have the good without the bad. In fact, several years ago after watching, “The Story of Us” with Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer (a truly painful and heavy movie about marital relationships), I incorporated something I saw in movie into my own family conversations. Every night at the dinner table while tired of asking the kids how school was and getting the repeated, robotic answer, “I learned. I played. I did everything”, I decided to dig deeper. I would ask, “what was your high point and what was your low point today?” This question made everyone pause and think a little harder about their response. I remember when my stepson would come over, he would crave for that conversation sometimes initiating the question. And, I could have just asked about the good part of their day, but I thought it was important to learn about their struggles, adversity and what just didn’t go as planned. We tended to talk longer on the low points really listening to each other and offering ways to support one another. While my kids are older, and we don’t have full dinners as often anymore, I still continue this tradition and when we do, if some is joining us then the question is posed to them as well.

But what about the pain that comes to us? You may be thinking, “Ummm Dara…I don’t seek out pain?!?” I’m asking about injury, illness or trauma. I had a very enlightening conversation a few weeks ago with a dear friend who has had issues with her hip as long as she can remember. She tried everything for pain management and has worked with doctors yet there has been no relief. Her husband bought her a gift certificate towards an online guided meditation program. A little skeptical at first, she finally decided “what the hell” and gave it a try. What she told me I found absolutely fascinating. She said when she first started the directed meditation instructed her to focus on where the pain was coming from and breathe into it. However, she was also directed to focus on what parts of her body felt good. Through this mindfulness meditation, she said she was able to find clarity around the pain, the source and the intensity, and to redistribute the focus to good sensations happening within her body. She also realized how much the rest of her body had overcompensated in order to try to avoid pain and is now working to readjust and normalize it. This made me think of the clip from Roadhouse featured above. Is the statement, “Pain don’t hurt” true? Or is it when we are mindful and aware that it is present, then we can move beyond?

“Your story will heal you and your story will heal somebody else. When you tell your story, you free yourself, and you give other people permission to acknowledge their story as well.”

I don’t know how many of you watched the SCOTUS hearings this week. I listened to them as I worked and paid particular attention to Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony, not to determine guilt, but in awe of her extreme bravery to come forward and share her trauma. Because of this sexual assault, she recounted that it impacted her relationships, developed phobia of confined spaces, and created a need for always having an escape route. That pain has not gone away after 36 years and was actually brought to light in the world’s forum for all to witness. I know she volunteered willingly to bring this issue to forward, but that doesn’t mean it was any easier for her. I do hope that in doing so that she was able to finally release some of that pain by identifying it and bringing it out into the open.

It also made me think of another conversation I was privy to this week. One of the dads that had really gotten his life together and was by all accounts doing well, relapsed. It made me sad and mad because of the hold addiction has on the afflicted’s life. I started preaching again how it’s not just “getting a job” but it’s really about supporting the whole person—mind, body and spirit and again being mindful of your pain, of your disease, and/or of your trauma. I am no expert in this space and I don’t pretend to be. However, I have been thinking a lot about this topic lately and my own experiences in pain. I do yoga because it helps center me, but it also reminds me to breathe and to be mindful of how I’m feeling and what feels good and what doesn’t. I also understand why people turn to eating, compulsive shopping, drinking, drugs or being an adrenaline junkie in order to cover up or cope with their pain.

If we are aware of that pain or the underlying cause of it, then we are able to build resiliency. I see it like a baby taking his or her first steps. You pull yourself up and attempt to move forward. Either your lack of balance or an obstacle in the way causes you to fall. You pause a moment and then get back up, hopefully maneuvering around the obstacle or getting your balance before moving again. This repeats over and over again until you’ve learned how to walk. Now if it’s me, I still haven’t fully learned to walk (remember, Miss Congeniality), but I pull myself together and try again. I also share these stories because in being aware, or mindful, or as the kids’ say “woke”, I am hopeful that others feel like they are not alone. I will also hopefully learn to be mindful in the moment as to not to create any unnecessary pain. ?

  “Joy and pain…sunshine and rain…” Rob Base

With light and love,

Dara Sophia

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