Well now, this is unorthodox, but it turns out I have a few more things to say, in a disjointed fashion, about moving through pain. If you haven’t read “Pain is Where the Change Happens”, start there and then come back to this, the most appealingly named “Pain Addendum”.
The first is this, taken from a talk I recently gave at the Association of Oncology Social Workers (AOSW) annual conference in Denver CO:
The Franciscan spiritual leader, Richard Rohr, uses a simple metaphor in his teachings. Think of three boxes: One is labeled “Order”, the second is labeled “Dis-order” and the third is labeled “Re-order”. At any one time, we are functioning and navigating the world from one of these three spaces, and there is implied progression through a cycle of order, dis-order and subsequent re-ordering of our lives. These three steps, he says, are the building blocks of transformation, change and growth. But what people tend to do, or try to do, is to endlessly live in and contribute only to “Order”. They hold it, believe that it is possible, and contribute much energy to maintaining the order and consistency of their lives.
This makes sense, of course. Order is comforting and feels good. It is predictable and known. Disorder, on the other hand, is difficult. Unpredictable and challenging.
If and when something disruptive occurs, we are inclined to move past disorder and enter immediately into the process of re-ordering. Holding, with our last bit of energy, fingernails scratching the surfaces of the dissolving box of order, we attempt to maintain a straight path from order to reorder and back again.
But the thing is, the process of Disorder does not disappear. It is there and it is essential to the path of transformation. By not addressing it, we do not negate its existence or the necessity of moving through it, we simply truncate our own growth. Disorder will wait for us. It will show up in the dreams and interpersonal interactions of the person who shuffles past it. If we do not let ourselves live in the disorder, to experience and feel the pain of it, there is nothing to reorder.
If we ignore it, the sense of disorder often compounds and grows. Like the junk we continue to shove away in a closet until, in cartoon-like fashion, it bursts upon us. Disorder can feel insurmountable. It can feel bigger than we are. The good news is, that we can be curious about it. We can, even with all the discomfort and pain, navigate through it and start to give it structure and direction. When we are ready, we start to reorder the mess, and in so doing, emerge feeling like we accomplished something. Because we did.
Secondly, and finally, in my meditation on moving through pain, I received the most thoughtful email this week from my friend, Lynne. She had read my post, had a number of wonderful reflections on it, and shared an allegory with me that really resonated:
The story starts with a herd of cows, out in the open pasture. When cows smell and see a storm coming, hovering and then moving towards them, they run. It is scary, this storm. It makes them feel threatened
and afraid. So they run from it. What these cows do not realize though, is that they will never outrun the storm. It will always be right at their heels, and will likely catch them. And even if it doesn’t, what does a life on the run look like, always with a storm at their backs? For them, on the run, the storm never ends. They are always just ahead of, but never free of it.
Turns out that buffalo do things differently. When buffalo are out in the open and a storm gathers and approaches, they turn right into it, charge square into the center of the storm. What they know instinctively is that the only true way to weather the storm is to run through it. To emerge on the other side, tired and wet, but with the sun breaking waiting to warm and dry them.
And so here it is, an invitation to be the buffalo. To face it straight on, to open the box of disorder and to start the process of reordering. Because really, who has the energy to outrun a storm?