The Hidden Benefit of Pain

Photo credit: Steve Hawkins

Photo credit: Steve Hawkins

This morning, I read an article about author Glennon Doyle Melton and her recent separation. The article ended with this comment:

“You can be shattered and then you can put yourself back together piece by piece” she wrote. And sometimes, “no matter how hard you try, you simply cannot fit into your old life anymore.”

It’s hard to decide what to do when your life disintegrates in front of you. Adversity can toss you into a new way of life where you adjust, learn and move forward with the tools and strength you have. Until one day you outgrow who you once were.

The pain and suffering forces you to draw a new version of yourself.

Shortly after high school, four family members died within a short time span. I didn’t know how to process the pain or express my feelings. With nowhere else to go, I turned to a family counselor for help.

“Have you considered writing out your pain?” he asked. “The process can help you transfer the pain onto paper so you can look at it objectively and and process it.”

“But I’m not a writer” I said.

“When you start writing, you’ll become a writer” he said. “You have to start somewhere.”

So I wrote.

And wrote.

And twenty years later, I filled thirty notebooks full of stories.

One day, my boss approached me and said that the company was closing down soon and I needed to find another job. By that time, I was tired of doing the work and ready to pursue another challenge. I was writing every day, and never considered doing something with it.

And then one day, I woke up and felt the need to buy a computer.

I drove down to a local computer store and bought a Macintosh computer, Microsoft Office, and a monitor and printer. Within three weeks, I knew how to use the computer and navigate my way around Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

And guess what? Four weeks before the company dissolved, I found a new employer who needed someone in my current profession who knew how to write and use a Mac.

What I thought was tragedy eventually led me to a new career.

In the process of figuring out how to deal with pain, I walked into a new career.

I hope that Glennon and her husband find reconciliation in this season of their lives. But while her comments concerned marriage, it seems like writers endure a similar crucible with writing.

After you write for a certain amount of time and find your voice, you’re no longer the same person you were when you started. You created a new version of yourself that eclipses your current self.

You simply can’t fit into your old life anymore.