Sitting in one of my teacher’s wicker chairs, in which I had sat so many times before, I could feel myself shaking.
This likely was not visible to her, but I could sense a subtle quivering inside of myself—that cocktail of emotions that feels edgy, with a pinch of fear and a dash of desperation.
I asked her what was happening and she told me kindly, with that understanding and patient smile, that I was “in the throes” of it all once again.
I was struggling with every relationship in my life, most importantly the one with myself. My relationship with my parents, a partner, and my relationship with even what I consider to be my life purpose was on the rocks.
I felt as if I was in an “in-between” state with every category in my life and had been avoiding and running from things in a way that I had not done for years. Questioning things on an existential level was nothing new for me, but this felt different and much more significant than usual.
We find ourselves suddenly walking through more pronounced landscapes of confusion, grief, desperation, and melancholy.
We question how we got to the often painful place where we are at, we question why things are happening the way that they are, we sometimes feel such a lack of direction that our feet feel like 20 pound weights, which we do not know how to move forward with any semblance of ease or levity.
Within these challenging and grueling times though, lie the greatest opportunities for transformation, growth and change.
These are the pivotal thresholds in our lives which the giants on whose shoulders we stand have referred to for ages, and these are not just mythical stories.
Sometimes there are no specific events that trigger these times, rather they build up slowly—like a pressure cooker—to where all of a sudden, something has to give.
We have no choice but to wake up and release certain aspects of ourselves that are holding us back.
More often though, it is a specific event that triggers these periods, like a spark that lights a raging fire in our lives that we did not see coming. A teacher of mine who I admire greatly described this moment for her as being that when she received a phone call that her father had passed away. Her life had changed forever in an instant.
For others, this can be a difficult life event, such as a divorce, or the threshold that we all pass when becoming a parent—this is why they refer to having a baby as being “in the throes” of childbirth.
Something new is always either born for uncovered from these struggles.
Typically, when we are “in the throes” we have no choice but to be still, or to pause. We may feel guilt or shame for having to slow down or stop altogether.
When I gave birth to my second daughter, I opted not to use pain medication, and I had never felt pain like this before in my life.
The birth was fast and it was intense. She was born in five hours, much different than the birth of my first daughter which lasted over three days. Just before she was born, I reached a breaking point.
I found myself begging for pain medication but my midwife told me that I was beyond the point where they could do an epidural. My head was thrashing from side to side and I found myself in a place where I knew somehow that I had to face the pain head-on in order to move through this.
Resisting this was clearly not a good option, for myself nor for my child.
I somehow picked up on the nonverbal communication between my midwife and the birth doula who was supporting me, and I knew that something was concerning them. There was something going on with the vitals of my baby and there was a new sense of urgency present in the room.
I remember closing my eyes and going deep down into my physical body to the exact place where this pain was leading me to go. The sensations were so intense that I was not even in any dimension that we are typically aware of during our day-to-day lives. Time here was skewed in the sense that it was both rushing at light speed, and standing completely still all at once.
I let go of the fear of the pain.
Pain can be intense, but it really is nothing but a teacher—it is information that our brains process.
Choosing to embrace the pain and develop a new relationship with it allowed me to simply listen to what it was trying to tell me, and it told me that I needed to let go. My body was gripping, and I needed to dig deep to breathe and surrender into something which my mind had formed fear around.
My daughter was born minutes later breathing fresh breaths of her own after crossing her own threshold—the threshold into this life.
What I have learned is that when it comes to pain in these intense times, we often have nothing to fear, but everything to learn. Much like with the birth of my daughter, the greatest of these sensations typically arrive right before we cross over these thresholds.
These are the “tipping points” where we have a choice. We can choose to fully surrender and use every ounce of free will that we have to continue, or we can shy away and continue to swim in familiar waters where we risk becoming stagnant and unhealthy.
These points are similar to the grueling point that marathon runners often refer to as mile 22 of the 26.2 mile race. This is where the mental, emotional, and even spiritual struggle becomes existential and while this is intense, there is so much to gain and the reward is great.
Life will never be perfect and we will be challenged continually in new ways as we are human, but many of our conditioned perceptions and self-limiting belief systems shatter when we cross these thresholds. When we overcome this trepidation and all that we experience while “in the throes,” we expand to a version of ourselves that we likely had not yet experienced.
So, from my heart to yours—if you are here right now, I encourage you to surrender to it all.
Love yourself enough to dig deep, hold tight and breathe your way to something new.
You are not alone, and I assure you that you have not yet even caught so much as a glimpse of the actual potential that is there for you.
Author: Katie Vessel
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Wesley Eller/Flickr