This Makes Me Super Uncomfortable But I’m Doing it Anyway: What Menstrual Cramps Taught Me About Self-Transformation
[Disclaimer: This menstrual cramp discussion means that I’m going to get a bit exclusive to the male glow-getters out there. Gentlemen, try your best to empathize or find a parallel metaphor – exclusion is not my intention.]
Despite my honor and reverence for the female body, this isn’t easy for me to discuss. Yet, as I sprawled out on the bathroom floor on Friday, writhing in pain, I thought, “I’m having a breakthrough. It will be almost as uncomfortable to write about as it is to experience, so I need to write.”
Cramps. Self-transformation. What do these lovely things have in common?
Nope, it’s not “Things that should not be discussed in public.”
The answer is “pain.” Lots and lots of pain.
In the past three months, I’ve had two of the worst experiences with cramps. The experiences lasted an hour each time and were so excruciating that I got violently ill. Then as randomly as they came about, they were done. I felt depleted and exhausted, but the pain ended.
The first month this happened, I freaked, resisted, and begged the universe for relief. In that painful time, I forgot what that kind of physical pain is like – that I’ve been through it before and I’m still in one piece.
The second time this hour-long cramp thing happened, I tried a different approach. Every time I felt the pain coming on, though I felt the urge to resist it, I welcomed it. I breathed into it. I didn’t beg for relief because I had faith the pain would end. And it did.
This is the thing with transformation, whether it’s brutal rejection in a relationship, a frustration with a stagnant business or weight loss – the pain ends.
It’s only the suffering that may continue.
At first, I blame myself: “What did I eat, do, say or think to create this situation?” Then I blame nature and life for being so cruel. Then I blame myself for the inability to overcome nature.
This is the comparison game – not the celebration game. I compare myself to what I am not – what I could be – instead of celebrating what I am.
The transformational breakthrough occurs when you give yourself permission to feel, to listen to your body, to forgive your humanness.
When we’re in the “It hurts so much” phase of pain, we tend to jump to feelings of hopelessness, blame, and sadness. Of course this isn’t wrong. It’s the escape that may prolong it.
In our (understandable) distaste for pain, we try to escape. We resist it. We contract (which is the worst possible thing to do when you have cramps – just FYI). We do everything possible not to feel: drink, smoke, exercise, lash out, judge, control, eat, etc etc.
We don’t feel and then we become amnesiacs of our past. We’ve forget that we’ve experienced pain before. We doubt that we’ll ever get back to happy.
But guess what happens only 100% of the time? The pain ends. We get through it, we get happy (even if momentarily), and we get stronger. Sometimes a little. Sometimes a lot. But every little bit counts.
When you try another approach, the one with welcoming and breath, you ask different questions. No longer is the question “What’s wrong with me?” It’s “I’m enough, so what else is wrong with this situation?”
Bottom line: if you want different results, you have to try something different.
“Many of us spend our whole lives running from feeling with the mistaken belief that you cannot bear the pain. But you have already borne the pain.
What you have not done is feel all you are beyond that pain.” -Kahlil Gibran
Decide that you’ll no longer be an amnesiac to getting through pain. You’ve been through it before and you’ll get through it again. Be vulnerable enough to feel fully – sink into the discomfort, with honest, compassion, and grace.
And humor… because I just used menstrual cramps as a metaphor for life :0
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