I forgot about joy. I forgot about laughter. I forgot about sweet, sunny smiles, warm epic embraces and carefree summer afternoons spent outside sipping iced tea.
I forgot about the quiet rapture of feeling my fingers dance through the breeze.
I forgot about letting my goddamn hair down and having some fun.
See, I’ve gotten very comfortable inside the familiar, tortuous little bubble of my suffering—a little too comfortable, that’s for f*cking sure.
Over the years, my struggle has became my closest ally, my dependable lover, my loyal best friend—a wolf in sheep’s clothing of a dangerous dragon that talks me into believing it keeps me safe.
It doesn’t keep me safe at all.
It keeps me stuck. It keeps me sad, lonely and isolated.
But for as long as I can remember, my pain, sadness and anxiety has felt like home. It’s felt like the most dependable place to turn. It’s felt like the only thing in the world that could love me for who I am—that wouldn’t reject me, that would still embrace me when life seemed to spit me out and kick me down, that would be there when others didn’t want me.
So every day, I lie down and let my suffering have its way with me. I snuggle up next to my sorrow—close, cozy and tight. I make out with my anger and let flutters of fear completely rule my life.
I feel so justified in this. It feels like: Oh, yeah—I don’t need anyone—I don’t need anything—for I have my almighty pain!
It will keep me safe and warm at night, right?
What a load of sh*t—but it has felt so achingly true.
Because the thing is, I have intentionally allowed suffering to shape my life, and this has been transformational—juicy beyond words and inspiring beyond belief—but, like reckless vines, my pain has begun to completely overtake everything.
It’s seeped into everything I do and every little decision I make.
My fear swarms around me like bugs—with shattering past memories, telling me what to do and how to do it—and I listen, so compliantly. I freeze. I run away. I shut down. My self-criticism edits out the fiery words I really want to say and forces me to present myself in a polite, dull, dishwater way. My self-loathing keeps me down and kicks me when it thinks I’m not looking. And then—oh no, we’re not finished just yet—fighting against my pain is just another way of bowing down to it like a god and feeding it further nourishment.
Every day has felt like an epic battle for survival, for as long as I can remember.
But there’s something new emerging now….
A very visceral sense of relaxation that inhabits my body, when I’m brave enough to let it.
The air around me shifts, and it smells now of honeysuckle, presence and hope. I can’t help but smile as I breathe in the tingly, tender newborn-like beginnings of a palpably different life—a life based on love, heart and inspiration, rather than fear. A life built on joy and divine possibility, rather than the constant, insatiable need to fight against something, someone, anyone—especially against myself.
Oh yes—there’s something new emerging now, from the depths of the darkness.
It’s raw, loveable and shocking.
The real, juicy core of me.
It feels utterly amazing, because I forgot I existed outside of all the tough sh*t that happened to me. I forgot that I am more than varying states of distress or discomfort. I forgot that I am more than my pain.
At a certain point, I melted into a puddle of profound hopelessness and just became my suffering. I gave up on enjoying life or savoring beauty. I became all the tears I cried. I became the heartbreak. I became the agony, the misery.
And now—right now, as I let go, as I release these dark burdens to the warm afternoon breeze—now, as I exhale and realize I never needed to hold onto things like this, I begin to wonder something…
Who am I without my pain?
Because I honestly have no idea—but I’d really love to find out. The thought alone ignites in me the most delicious curiosity.
Because I refuse to depend—for one moment more—on my struggle to sustain me. I refuse to lean on my fear and broken bits like they’re the only things that will love me, like they’re the only things in the entire world that won’t reject me.
I am so much better than that.
And so are you.
Oh, f*cking absolutely.
Who am I without my pain? Who are you without your pain?
What a juicy, slightly terrifying thought. What a perfectly daring line of inquiry.
Because no matter how broken or disillusioned we might feel—we are not our discomfort or misery.
We never were.
We are not just chaotic collections of sadness and failure—grand museums displaying all the traumatic sh*t that happened to us. We are not panic. We are not illness. We are not the shattering circumstances that once seemed to encapsulate us completely. We are not the terrifying memories where everything felt so shattered, like it might never be okay again.
We are so much more than that.
And yes, it’s great, courageous and necessary to honor that pain. But we must recognize that we are so much more than that too.
Who are we without our pain?
We are stardust. We are hope. We are resilience rising. We are creativity coursing through veins about to be splashed onto the thirsty canvas of life.
We are spirit. We are soul. We are divine sparks of electric light and dripping buds of wildflower possibility.
We are mysterious alchemical beauty, waiting to be unwrapped under the full moon, like the most badass birthday present of a lifetime.
We are the gorgeous dreams we stopped believing in.
We are truth. We are love. We are connection.
Who are we without our pain? Absolutely anything we want to be.
Everything we always were—free, empowered, human—imperfect, but magnificent beyond belief.
When we cling so hard to our suffering, when darkness becomes the whole of our identity, the entirety of our existence—when we can’t remember what it’s like not to hurt, that’s exactly when we have to let go.
That’s exactly when it’s time to rip the security blanket of our old, familiar pain right out of our clinging hands and be buck-naked with the raw gloriousness of our souls.
Oh yes. Let us remember now, what it is to smile genuinely. To savor a moment like a ripe, plump raspberry. Let us remember who we are, without all the burdens we’ve been carrying.
Let us remember the trembling, naked beauty of our existence.
Author: Sarah Harvey
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina