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Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: Pain Box

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pain Box

Some people have Gd boxes. Literally a box that they keep somewhere private. They write down all their problems, hopes, dreams, angers, prayers, and they put them in their Gd box. An exercise in letting go, having faith and feeling less alone. Some say this helps ease the heavy of burden of too many wishes and frustrations. And the straining to control what cannot be controlled.

Then there is what I call the pain box. That's a private place inside the heart where pain is kept. Although I suppose that you could actually have a box in your closet as well. But the one I am thinking of is that place where bad feelings, memories of bad feelings, painful memories, live inside you. Its where you send the thoughts and feelings, events and ideas, that hurt.

I recently had a long chat with a dear old aunt of mine, who turned 85 this week. She has more energy than most people half her age, and is one of those annoyingly, (though really so sincere) chipper people who are slogan happy and say things like, "don't worry, be happy," and then do a little cha cha with their hips. My Auntie did not have a hard life. She did not have an easy one either. Somewhere in the middle, I suppose. So I asked her what her secret to staying so chipper, so unburdened, so alive at 85 was. A question that many seniors get asked many times. So Auntie tells me about keeping things in their place, perspective, and not having the difficult stuff take over. She talks, in essense, about the pain box.

It's like this. All the bad stuff is always there. But it does not have to be up and walking around all the time, front and center. It can go into the pain box. And you can close the lid and go about your day. Sometimes, when the time is right, you can open the box and look around. You can cry and pace and wring your hands. And then you can close lid again and go back to your business. And sometimes you can open the box and pull out the things inside and show them to someone who you trust. You can tell that person all about your pain, for as long as they can listen and you can stand it, or until it does not feel quite so painful anymore.

I know it's not as easy as just closing the imaginary lid, but it's an idea that can help in getting through the day, and not letting the pain take over all the time. In fact, some folks look forward to opening the box at a certain time of the day. Just knowing that they can keep their pain close, visit it, feel it, and then put it away a bit helps get them throught the day.

So Auntie has a pain box. And its contents are private. Not secret. But private. She shares them at the right times, with the right people. Otherwise, the lid is closed. She also told me that when the box is closed, she looks for laughter. She thinks that laughing is a necessary part of the day. She says she lives one day at a time, and focuses on the good things in life. And she tries to be kind to strangers.

I tell her that I know all that already. Isn't there something more? She says yes, but I will have to wait for her 90th birthday to find out.

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