I really love Cat Valente’s writing, and her latest essay – Pain Is Not Penance – is a thoughtful piece about pain and our understanding of it. Some of it feels like an exorcism.
Pain, Valente writes, is something many of us have learnt to believe is a punishment:
For something you’ve done, something you’ve been, something you failed to do, something you wanted, chose, strove for, resisted, something you couldn’t stop, something you turned away from or turned toward or turned into, something you gave in to, something you saw or didn’t see, something you lost or took or abandoned or wouldn’t let go.
And that can lead to one of the most dangerous beliefs in our society:
Pain is payback. You earned this hurt. It didn’t happen to you, you collided with it. It isn’t random, it is your pain, for you, because of you, and if you’d only been better, if only you’d been stronger, if only you’d held on a little longer or let go a little sooner, if only you’d been more, if only you’d been less, if only you’d managed to be Goldilocks’ Own Brand Pristinely Precisely Perfect Fucking Porridge, you wouldn’t be doubled over in the dark right now, burning alive from the inside out.
I don’t want to spoil the rest of the article. It’s well worth your time.