Feeling Guilty about Pain

First, I have FIFTY followers! Woohoo, I cannot believe so many of you are interested in my complicated love life. But you make me feel loved. Thank you, thank you.

Believe it or not, I am traveling yet again, this time to the middle of Louisiana to talk about maternal health with a bunch of old ladies. For real, the median age must something like 75. Some of the women in my group are over 80. I am consequently feeling not much older than a zygote. This is an interesting feeling as most of my DC friends are actually a few years younger than my racing-toward-thirty 27-year-old self. Time for me to get over myself--I am a youngin'.

Being in Louisiana right now is an interesting experience to say the least. I have felt awkward being an outsider at times, not sure how to address the oil spill, the aftermath of Katrina, etc. Do you ask questions or not? Fortunately the women are very open. I've talked with several who lost everything in the hurricane and have managed to get their lives back together, which they give God all the praise for. I see the empty seats at the tables, and I hear that this is the lowest turnout for this event ever. Many people just couldn't afford the trip here. Louisiana sure could use a break. In addition to being surrounded by such loss, I'm also going to lectures on the Sudan. It's a real joy fest over here.

When confronted by the overwhelming hurt of the world, I usually feel paralyzed and then guilty for whatever is going on in my own life that's got me upset. Right now it's feeling anxious over what's going on with SCL. Stacy Morrison talked about this in her book. When she was going through her divorce and one of her friends would complain about some ordinary annoyance--a bad meal, a long commute, etc--the friend would apologize and say, "Oh, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have complained. You have it so much worse."

How can we compare pain? Is it only the ones feeling the most severe forms that are allowed to talk about it and to feel it? Surely not. One person's broken leg doesn't alleviate the sting of another person's stubbed toe. The severity doesn't matter. It all hurts. We shouldn't judge ourselves for feeling it, no matter the degree. Our own experiences of pain are as unique as we are, and yet having felt it does help us to connect with others trudging through life's valleys.

So, I will honor where I am--a young woman trying to figure out her life, struggling to love, and wanting to grow. It's quite alright for me to feel pain about my own life. And it sure does't mean that I can't show compassion to others in the process.

6 comments:

  1. Interesting debate. It can be so easy to get wrapped up in our own problems and they seem huge to us, yet we can be taken down a peg when we see REAL suffering. But that doesn't lessen the pain we're experiencing. I do think it's important, though, to understand that many people have it way worse than us & many of our so-called problems could be alleviated by really taking the time to think more about other people than ourselves.

    Yes, it sucks that it's taking me so long to get an education & to pay tuition. It sucks that my financial aid was revoked. I'm not going to graduate on time. But I have been given an amazing blessing of education, to learn at an amazing university. I have been given an opportunity many people can only dream about.

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  2. Congrats on 50!! I agree about pain...it's hard just to decide not to be upset by something because you know someone out there has it way worse. I think the best thing is just to respect all the hardships that people have to deal with.

    Also, on a happier note - good luck with your event and be sure to check out the giveaway going on at my blog right now! :)

    http://jammer10am.blogspot.com/

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  3. I always try to tell myself that when things feel bad someone somewhere is probably worse off than me.

    When I lost my job and we were having money issues (and still are) I kept telling myself, "It could be worse. We have family to help. We could be on food stamps. We could be homeless. We have our health and our love." However, at the same time money issues are NEVER easy and so I know that some of the pain both my husband and I felt was okay to feel AS LONG AS neither of us let it ruin us.

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  4. I agree! Though some people's terrible situations make you put things in perspective sometimes, your pain be it physical or emotional is just as real as anyone elses.

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  5. I agree wholeheartedly. I've often felt this way before; that my problems couldn't possibly compare with those of my friends/family members, etc... but we are all given our own personal struggles. As you said: "the severity doesn't matter. It all hurts." So it's okay to wallow and experience pain; we just have to be willing to listen to the struggles of those around us, to lend our ears and offer compassionate words when we can. Great post and let us know how it goes!

    PS: Congrats on 50 followers :)

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  6. I think too often we get competitive about our pain--or think that it's a competition, at the very least. We're all trying to get through, and the best we can do is listen and support one another.

    I've been learning so much from these 80-year-old women at this conference. Makes me realize how much more I have to grow and experience!

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