What Pain Still Teaches Me
I’m sitting in the back row of my children’s high school theater as close to the middle as I can get. It is the third night and final night of my daughter’s last performance of her high school career, although none of us know that. As the cast completes the curtain call, I see the smile on my daughter’s face as she sings her heart out, as she speaks her lines, and as the audience roars in applause during the final curtain.
And I see her tears too. The bitter-sweet feeling of spending hours learning lines, working on costumes, practicing scenes, working out the lighting and microphones — all in preparation for opening night. The joy of sharing one’s talent with others and having it celebrated. The delight in hearing the audience laugh and cheer. The wonder of knowing that through the power of storytelling, people are feeling emotion.
I can tell she is feeling her emotions too — relief, pride, joy, exhaustion, and sadness. It is closing night which means the musical is over. The set will be taken down, costumes put away, makeup washed off, and never again will this group of people ever be together again to create this magical moment.
As the curtain closes for the final time, the house lights become brighter, and the crowd disperses, I notice hot tears on my own face. My mind spins. My heart aches. I travel through time to my own teenage theater experience. I remember what it was like to be someone else for just a few hours after school before going home. I was a king, a lawyer, or a cowardly lion, a German 18-year-old boy going on 19, a Jewish tailor who experiences a miracle, and later a clock wishing he could become human again. I remember the ecstasy of the applause for a performance well done that soothed the deep wounds of rejection made in the locker rooms and parking lots nearby.
I know what the magic of theater can do for a person. I know the wounds it can heal — the friendships that can last a lifetime.
Three months later, tears fall from my eyes once again as I hear that my daughter has tried out for the very last musical of her high school career and did not get much of a role at all. Although my daughter handled it with beauty and grace, I did not. I recognized what was happening. My rejection wound was being triggered on a massive scale. The pain of being chosen last or not at all came screaming back to life.
And the stories… oh the stories my shadows told, particularly from the Royal only stoked the flames of anger. “She deserved that role.” “Why couldn’t the director see her talent or how much she puts her heart and soul into her work.”
My Royal made up all kinds of stories about why they selected whom they selected. None of what my Royal said was kind, sensitive, or empathic. I knew that the war in my heart was about my own wounds.
And then my Judge showed up. “Who do you think you are? You teach about peace, love, and forgiveness, and yet your heart is at war. What is wrong with you?” And the familiar feeling of shame settles in.
I remind myself that pain is part of the yin and yan of life. Rejection hurts. Loss devastates. Neglect destroys. Abandonment annihilates, Betrayal shatters, and Abuse eradicates. I remind myself that not being selected for a part may actually be a blessing instead of a measurement of one’s worth. I remind myself to lean into the pain. I ask what it has to teach me. I ask what I am supposed to learn. My Rebel wants to flip everyone the bird.
Yet I breathe. I listen to my sad song playlist. I call a few friends. I talk to my daughter who is really taking this so much better than her father.
I realize that this is bigger than a daughter not being selected for her desired part. This is about a daughter who is growing up and will be moving out of my home soon. It is about a chapter about to finish and a new chapter about to begin.
It is about her brother who is on the tech crew for the musical and adores what he is doing — who wants his parents’ support just as much as we gave his sister.
It is about the other students who were not selected for a part at all, who had to go home and tell their parents they were not chosen.
It is about the millions of people applying for jobs and not being selected.
It is about the way one group of people rejects another group of people.
It is about attachment wounds of an individual and on a worldwide scale.
And I remember we are not alone in our suffering.
I thank the Rebel, the Royal, and the Judge for trying to help me deal with rejection, my fear, and my sadness. And I come back to a sense of peace.
I express gratitude for my wounds of rejection because they led me to become an author, psychotherapist, and educator in the hopes that I could perhaps help others learn how to create healing environments for their own wounds. The peace fuels my desire to step back into my light and continue to help the world become more loving and kind.
I ask myself, “How can I help someone feel accepted today? How can I help some feel like they matter?” and I let the question linger until an answer comes.
And I remember ~ Taking action to lift and serve is a choice — just as much as harboring resentment towards those who did not choose my daughter — and I know which choice will bring me peace. I choose the move my energy to something more full of light.