Addendum: Personal Story 12/2/08
By: Leslie A. Fischman
It’s not where you’ve been and what you’ve done but where your going and what you’ll do. In James’s Joyce’s “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” she expresses that “of all these spiritual pains by far the greatest is the pain of loss . . .a torment greater than all others.” One of life’s mysteries is that not everything happens for a reason that may make sense to us.
For me, the pain of loss has been deepest felt by seeing the ones I love cope with loss. I’ll never forget the day she died. I was nine years old.
What was supposed to be the most private and personal time for loved ones to share in the comfort of each other’s company, turned out to be a media frenzy. I remember my father showing me a copy of the New York Post. On the front page was a little girl clasping the gold railings framing a white casket -that little girl was me.
I held my friends hand the whole time during the funeral. I sat with her in the limo on the drive to the burial site, and I walked beside her to her mother’s casket –it was white with shiny gold handles. There was music playing and flowers everywhere. White flowers, I think they were gardenias. I walked up to the casket, when no one else was looking and put my hands out to touch it, and closed my eyes.
Its moments like these, that time freezes, when we can’t move forward, and today feels like a nightmare that we can’t awake from. We get stuck in the moment, waiting for it to pass, and wonder that if we did something differently, than things wouldn’t have turned out the way they did, and think that if only we had the power, we could change the past. However, we realize our own powerlessness when events happen to us that we have no control over. It is the loss of power we experience that makes us question ourselves, and those around us in our immediate environments.
I question Joyce’s belief that the pain of loss is by far the greatest pain. Rather I see the process of recovery and healing as the greatest pain. The process of moving on from the experiences that cause us pain, and the emptiness that loss brings. I think that pain and the experience of loss is essential to recognizing our own mortality and preciousness of time and how we live a full life. When the mind becomes “filled with darkness and despair, never to escape” and we must “fight the pain of its intensity” (114), is when we realize the importance of our existence and our potential to be the agents of the change we desire.
Until we experience pain ourselves, can we begin to understand the pain of others. We can see it, we can listen, but to feel it for ourselves in unlike any experience, one without words to describe its meaning. Sometimes we don’t listen until we see things for ourselves. Words carry no meaning if we don’t understand them, but its our experiences that give us meaning and purpose that motivate us to make the necessary changes in our lives, change needed in order to effect positive changes in the lives of others. But we have the power to choose which moments we will allow to define ourselves and affect what we do now in the present to get to where we see ourselves in the future.
What is pain? The answers to this question arose during my senior year while I was recovering from a serious addiction. I was addicted to the feeling of pain and any way in which I could enable myself to feel it. I have since recovered and have been continually improving upon finding more positive means to help myself cope with some of my greatest inadequacies. It wasn’t that I was unaware of what I was doing was wrong, but rather I was excessively aware of myself and of my weaknesses, to the point I failed to see what my strengths were and what I was indeed capable of.
According to Joyce, “things are more intense at their centers than at their remotest points” (114). We can never fully understand the pain of others until we experience pain ourselves. At certain points in our lives we required to adapt to changes and life circumstance we have no control over, some of us are better equipped to adapt to those changes and some of us, with less experience, endure significant pain in unfamiliar territory and with few resources and positive outlets to help us cope. Running away and finding alternate routes to escape from our fears of pain, inhibits us from moving forward, and many may remedy inhibitions that prevent them from attaining socially motivated goals and acceptance from their peers.
Instead of facing our fears and accepting pain of loss, we may turn to quick, easy, and immediate remedies to alleviate and prevent us from feeling altogether. So we alienate ourselves from our self and distance ourselves from the present moment, when we are unwilling to accept our past and ourselves, and give in to the many immediate remedies in search of a more pleasurable existence.
We may not have control over the world around us and the people in it, but what we do have control over is our emotions and our feelings and the choices we make for ourselves in the present. We only have control over two things in life: our attitudes and how we choose to respond. If we allow our pasts to define us than we limit our future capabilities and never allow ourselves to grow and move forward.