If you know me, you know I work with kids. Kids are lots of fun and sometimes they ask interesting questions. This week I was sitting with a youngster who was having some difficulty and we were problem solving the issue when he noticed my arms were all scraped up and that there were several red bumps with little scabs on them.
“What happened to your arm?” he asked as he pointed to an especially ugly little wound.
It’s that time of year when the roses are going gang busters and I, on the weekends, try to keep up with them. In the course of keeping the rose bushes happy and producing, I get pretty sliced up. A normal person would probably wear long sleeves and heavy gloves. Not me, I wear fairly light gloves and short sleeves for pruning duties. The thing I have discovered about roses is that when I do get pricked by a rose thorn, it often leaves an angry red welt and it bleeds so I have these little scabs on red bumps on my arms after especially aggressive pruning sessions.
The child was curious, he mentioned that it looked like I’d been stung by bees.
I told him the story of my roses and how I was pruning them and they were stickery and had poked me with their thorns several times.
“Why do you prune them?” he asked…
“To keep them looking beautiful.” I replied.
“So sometimes it hurts to keep things beautiful?” he sort of half asked half stated.
And I thought, how profound. It hurts to keep things beautiful. There is truth there, I think. Yes, there is pain associated with keeping my roses up. I love the roses and the pain is just part of the process. I don’t really think about it. I just have cuts and welts on my arms. But the roses that come from healthy, maintained bushes are worth the pain to me. The roses do nothing for me and yet I willingly get scratched up and bloodied for them.
How often do we do that in our every day lives? Relationships are like that I think. We often go to great lengths to maintain friendships, love relationships, marriages, enduring pain to have something beautiful, a connection with another human being. For most people I imagine the pain is worth the outcome. The prize. The rose bloom.
I sometimes think that pain helps us appreciate the thing for which we suffer just a little more than we would otherwise. Pain is part of the investment in something beautiful.
One of my favorite researcher/authors, Brene Brown says this:
“Now I can lean into joy, even when it makes me feel tender and vulnerable. In fact, I expect tender and vulnerable. Joy is as thorny and sharp as any of the dark emotions. To love someone fiercely, to believe in something with your whole heart, to celebrate a fleeting moment in time, to fully engage in a life that doesn’t come with guarantees—these are risks that involve vulnerability and often pain. When we lose our tolerance for discomfort, we lose joy.”
I agree. When we lose our tolerance for discomfort (pain) we lose joy. We lose the ability to see the beauty in the rose bush. I can lean into the pain, because the result… is something beautiful. In roses and in life.
What do you think?