I will never forget that morning. I was unaware then, but that morning would irreparably alter my life, and would lead me to a belief in the bittersweet commodities of pain. That life-changing morning in the summer of my sixteenth year, I was blasted awake by a full volume ringtone rendition of Incubus’ Wish You Were Here”, causing a cosmic quake on my mattress. I staggered out of bed, cursing God and each of his creatures and wearing the type of grimace I would expect Oscar to wear when someone kicks over his can. I snatched my phone and punched it to my ear. And that’s when I learned that my best friend was dead. I will never forget the pain of that morning.
Like a cold knife plunged into the ribs. The pain knocked me clean off my feet, a vicious uppercut that landed me back on the previously warm bed. The only way I know to describe that morning, is painful. Pain is all I felt, it was all I seemingly could feel. Two years since that fateful summer day, I can say that I most decidedly did not use the best means to assuage the pain I felt for losing a person I cared deeply about. But since that fateful summer day, I have learned to roll with the punches better. I learned that pain is not to be feared, or despised. Pain is to be utilized and manipulated. And so I came to believe in the bittersweet commodities of pain.
Whatever pain is, whether it miserable or terrifying or overwhelming, it is not worthless. Pain can tell you exactly how deep the wound runs. It can tell you exactly how much damage you’ve done. Every time in my life that I’ve hit a wall, the first indication I have of whether I’m really all right is when the pain comes. Flat on my back, staring into the stars, I take a deep breath and wait for the pain to arrive, and when it does, no matter how savage the anguish, the pain reminds me that I am still breathing, still fighting, still living. Regardless of the intensity of affliction, I know I would prefer this pain to the alternative of staring blankly into the stars with empty eyes, and no discomfort at all. This is one of the rare beautiful commodities about pain, a lonely rose in a sea of thorns. It will always remind you all is not lost.
Without ever having known dark, we would never truly appreciate light. Pain will always be a reminder of the hard times, rightfully so, because without recalling the harsh times, how would we recognize and celebrate the best times? Pain is a marvelous teacher in the art of gratitude. It will teach to appreciate what you have, and to protect it as well. I thank my best friend for teaching me to count my blessings. She is the first one.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.