A Perspective Shift That Makes Me Grateful for the Pain

I have more to be grateful for than I can possibly express with words. Yet my twenties, the time in our lives when we’re supposed to be strongest physically, has been rife with lower back pain.

I’ve tried to heal over the years; yet I and those whose help I’ve sought have struggled to find much clarity.

I rarely write about the pain; I journal and am so thankful to have people to talk to and cry with when I break down. It’s just not something I want to focus on.

I write this now because I believe the following lesson may apply to anybody going through a challenge, no matter the severity.

The point I hope to make here is not that I’ve suffered, but that the challenge has transformed my life and given me strength in ways which transcend the physical.

“I can’t let my mind get destroyed by this,” says author Kamal Ravikant on The Daily Stoic Podcast“If my mind goes, everything else is worthless.”

Kamal Ravikant appears as the embodiment of health and happiness.

Yet while leaving the hospital after elective surgery, he suffered a freak accident which caused his artery to burst and his life to flash before his eyes.

“I’m a good man,” he describes thinking. “This is not how I deserve to go. And then I thought, well shit, I have no choice. I had to give into that.”

That accident, which he later discovered had come from incompetence, cost him about two years of his life.

Few people deserve the pain that they suffer — physically, emotionally, mentally. We find ourselves asking, why me?

“It’s that not deserving thing that really messes you up more than anything,” says Kamal.

“I had to get over that. In the end, the only thing that it comes down to is, who am I going to be through this? That’s the choice you have to make. Nobody can make it for you. Am I going to be better through it, or is it going to be bigger than me?”

Chronic back pain throughout my twenties has led to more personal growth than any class or self-help book could have.

This hasn’t happened to me. It’s happened for me, and whatever you face has happened for you, too.

One day, it’ll all make sense when we see how far we’ve come. For now, just keep going.

“Your real résumé is just a catalog of all your suffering,” says entrepreneur Naval Ravikant — brother of Kamal, epic brother duo! — in his Almanack.

“If I ask you to describe your real life to yourself, and you look back from your deathbed at the interesting things you’ve done, it’s all going to be around the sacrifices you made, the hard things you did.”

The hardest, yet most meaningful thing I have to do in my life? Keep the faith, cultivate hope, and spread that in any way I can.

What does my back feel like? Like it needs to let go, unclench an obsolete mode of my identity.

Haven’t I outgrown this? Is there still more for the pain to teach me?

Do I do less? Cry more? Cease activity to let my soul release?

I can’t… can I? I’d do anything to know. I’ve tried, which makes me think this is deeper than the physical.

I’d give my all to leave this valley, beset in endless fog. The thing I fear the most is that I don’t know how far it drifts. That I haven’t reached the depths of struggle.

I’ve touched it, both the darkness and the strength which shines at unexpected times.

The light might not shine beyond the mountains. It’s not just something which we follow because we know it’s there. Because we’re given a promise, a guarantee, a way out.

It’s what I feel, burning in my chest. It’s something we create as agents of change, soldiers in the army of the light.

What I hear the most is that you’re too young for this. I hear these words and the echo stings — it’ll only get worse.

Yet I’ve never considered the opposite until last night.

I walked across a bridge at dusk, and watched as lights danced on the river in Osaka. The air was crisp and the sky was dark and I had my overcoat buttoned high — I can’t believe how time has gone.

The thought hit me: wait, could it only get better?

The words I needed came to me, a north star to follow in the clear night sky.

“So much of the pain is when we think this shouldn’t be happening,” says Dr. John Churchill on the Aubrey Marcus Podcast.

“But what if it’s like, oh, even this pain that I’m experiencing right now is part of the journey?”

“Whether that’s true or not, having a belief in it makes it true, alchemically,” responds Aubrey.

“Your response actually changes the past. You can time travel back to an experience, re-codify it with a different emotion, and understand that it was for you… to create who you are now. That was for me. Whether it was or wasn’t is inconsequential. It was because you said it was, and that’s magic.”

Why me? I still often wonder; yet where will that question take us?

Why not me, is a better question. I have the strength to make it through the valley, and so do you.

While you’re there, look around. From here you see the beauty of the mountains; you feel the softness of the rain.

You feel the earth beneath your feet as you are closer to its core — the heart of what makes us human.

I peer behind the future’s veil and glimpse the warrior of light, the man that I’ll become, the human that I am. For now, all I’ll say is thank you.

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