It's that time of year. We all do it. We make our list of New Year's resolutions.
Or we decide we're done with lists, and we're just going to choose the one thing we're really going to do this year.
And then, about three days later, we realize we've already forgotten what was on the list.
Or that doing that one thing is going to be harder than we thought.
You're Not Lazy
It's because we usually choose things we haven't been able to do yet to go on that list of New Year's resolutions. The challenging things we just haven't quite gotten around to. Ever notice that? The easy things - the things we know we're going to do regardless - don't usually end up on our list. We don't write them down because we don't have to. They're a given.
Resolutions are things that require commitment, resolve, and tenacity.
And sometimes making that list really works. We get some good momentum going and we really do keep those resolutions.
But a lot of the time we don't. Not because we're awful people, but because if our resolutions were easy to keep, we would have done them already.
But I Don't Want To Be In Pain This Year
How do we do that? If we make a resolution to be pain free, if we put that on our list, we almost immediately feel a sense of futility. How can we make that happen? How can we commit to something we feel we have very little control over?
In my experience, pain is the uncooperative factor in that resolution. It just won't be ordered around.
It's not that we aren't strong enough or we don't care enough or we're not trying hard enough. It's that pain keeps its own timetable, has its own longevity, and its own purpose. We certainly may not understand what that is, or how that is, or why that is, but it seems to be so.
Pain will take the time it takes.
Let Go Of Resolutions
Instead, we might make a resolution to stop fighting the big battle. This isn't the same as giving up or giving in or giving over as if we are crawling into our pain and disappearing inside it. Not at all.
Giving up the battle with pain doesn't mean surrender, it means taking the energy we've been putting into resisting and fighting the situation into accepting that it's here now and in finding ways to partner with pain and work with it as a messenger and a natural part of our healing path.
Why would we want to do that?
Because as long as we choose to do battle with pain, the battle will continue. When we stop clenching down on our pain, trying to stop it, and trying to fight with it, it doesn't have to fight with us quite so much. When we allow pain the time it needs, when we stop resisting its presence, it seems to begin to complete its mission faster.
Make Peace With Pain
But it's harder to keep struggling against it. Pain is already here. And, so far, pushing against it hasn't made it go away.
So, as a scientific experiment, right now, take a moment to release your breath (are you holding it?). Let it flow naturally, and just allow the pain in your body to be what it is, as it is, just for a moment.
Just for this moment, relax around the pain in your body. Allow pain to have the space it already occupies anyway.
It may be scary to you, and you may feel very vulnerable, but just for this moment, right now, don't fight with pain. It's still going to feel painful, but you're not fighting against it.
Notice you. And notice the pain. Coexisting. Making peace.
Consider making this year's resolution a non-resolution. A resolution of letting go, ceasing the battle with pain, and making peace with it. Being at peace with pain isn't a place of weakness or giving up. It's a place of great strength and, yes, even beauty.
Sarah Anne Shockley has lived with nerve pain from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome since 2007. She is the author of The Pain Companion: Everyday Wisdom For Living With and Moving Beyond Chronic Pain and Living Better While Living With Pain.