The Power of Remembered Pain

For the first time in my life, I have prescription sunglasses. I love them AND they really look pretty bad on my face. They’re a little too large and pointy at the edges, but they wrap around my face so the sun can’t even get in the sides. They’re extremely lightweight and the arms feel like they’re hugging my head. It’s what I used to do to my nephews when they were short enough. When I was getting ready to leave I’d hug and kiss their heads – that short hair, sometimes buzz cut, and those snapping-with-orneriness eyes, and those lopsided grins still win my heart over. I’m not tall enough to hug their heads anymore, but head-hugging is still one of my favorite things.

My sunglasses are lightweight and hug my head while I’m out on the path walking or running with Bud. They don’t slide down my nose when I sweat, they don’t fog up when it’s humid, and I don’t have to squint, no matter how bright it is. It’s good to see clearly…well mostly, I suppose.

I have never worn sunglasses much because I was convinced when I was little that they caused what I called “eye-hurts”. I now know that I had cluster migraines as a child – we didn’t know what they were then. I would get an eye-hurt and before they were over I usually lost my cookies or whatever else I’d had to eat. I would therefore avoid anything that I, as an eight, nine, or ten year old, had concluded was causing this pain, including sunglasses. My parents took me to the doctor for testing and I took some pills for a while, but mostly I think it was a matter of growing out of it. Eye-hurts still occur now and again, and I mostly know how to treat them. But deciding to get a pair of prescription sunglasses sorta feels like a big step for me.

Seriously? It’s been 45 years and buying and wearing head-hugging sunglasses is a big step for me? Yeah, pretty much. Remembered pain has a way of having power over us, and when we stay unaware, or maybe even decide it’s safer to ignore, it can keep us from that which might actually be good for us now. Let me say it another way. Those behaviors, decisions, adaptations we made in our past that helped us and that we needed in another chapter of life can become the very things that get in the way of us receiving and living into the good things that are there for us now.

It is often a process to come to that awareness, a process of recognizing and accepting that we probably did what we had to do to survive a painful event or time period in our lives. We’re invited, I think, to make peace or celebrate that we had the courage to do what we needed to at that time, AND at the same time to recognize that those very things we adapted to for our survival may now be getting in our way. To then decide that it may be time to let that idea, that conclusion, that instinctive reaction or response go, is a pretty big leap of faith.

Let’s face it: do I really want to see everything in my life and in the world more clearly right now? With these sunglasses I mean, right? *snort* Do I want to see more sharply the places that are broken and uneven – whether they are sidewalks or the ways we treat one another – racism, sexism, and homophobia are not done. Do I really want to see more clearly the path ahead when the road seems awfully long and the challenges that face us may call more generosity and courage and endurance from us than we may believe we have? Repairing and healing in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, like Hurricane Katrina and the devastating tornado in Joplin, takes longer than most of our attention spans and pocketbooks want to take. Do I really want to stop squinting or closing my eyes to how brightly the sun reflects on the beauty of a lake, or a stream, or the ocean and realize I may have some responsibility for proactively working on reducing my own carbon footprint so that the beauty and efficacy of the natural world lasts beyond the span of my life? What if recycling and using different light bulbs and a water-reducing showerhead require me to change my comfortable and life-long habits? Perhaps life was better when I was afraid of the pain that wearing sunglasses might cause, or…  perhaps this new head-hugging clarity has blessings I’ve yet to completely experience.

Maybe yours isn’t an eye-hurt that you associated with wearing sunglasses, but could it be time to think a bit about what and whether your remembered pain is blocking or distorting your openness to experiencing the wonder and responsibility and service and beauty with which God may be seeking to bless you?

I pretty much intensely dislike my attempts at selfies, but I love my new head-hugging not very pretty on my face new prescription sunglasses so much that…

We can do brave things!