I call this painting “Teenage Angst.”
I posted it on my Facebook wall the other day and received comments and emails to the likes of “That was so me in high school,” and “Wow, I dated that girl,” and “That’s a spitting image of my own teenager…”
Everyone knows Teenage Angst – many of us carry it right into adulthood.
However, as we become older and wiser, we have opportunities to become more skilled in learning how to navigate angst. Ultimately, the best way to work with it, is to stay with it.
Learning how “be” with our pain is essential to compassionate awakening. But it’s a case of the hardest thing being the best thing.
Our instinct is to run—to be anywhere but here—but “here” is where truth and freedom live.
Pema says it best:
“To stay with that shakiness—to stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge—that is the path of true awakening. Sticking with that uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic—this is the spiritual path.” ~ Pema Chodron
Learning to stay with emotion is tricky business. But with practice, it gets easier.
The wonderful thing about experiencing pain is that it motivates us to find new and effective ways of observing and working with difficult emotion. The more we practice, the easier it gets.
To get back to the painting I posted on my wall last week…
What was most interesting to me about sharing this image, is that although isolation is common to experience when burdened with an angst ridden mind, it was clear that the memory of it acted as a common thread and connector for everyone.
Pain within a simple picture returns us immediately to that place that is so relatable to all. We all know what it’s like to feel stuck, lonely, and frightened and although it’s our instinct in that space, to retreat and isolate, the very same experience can bond us. It’s why when we were teenagers we listened to The Smiths—to feel a little less alone.
It’s hard to remember sometimes that there is anyone but us who has felt this.
So perhaps, we can practice staying with difficult emotions, accepting them as being part of our momentary experience, and drop our shame and the story that goes with it. Perhaps we can strive towards practicing this over and over again.
And just perhaps, this will allow for our beautiful humanness to shine through, showcased by the incredible, broad range of emotions we are capable of expressing.
We all know pain. It’s never easy to hold. But that the universal experience of it can incite compassion, kindness, and break the isolation we carry to me is a beautiful thing.
Pain can act as a uniting force — that was proven with the sharing of one painting.
I’ll be featuring a short film the above painting is a part of, entitled “Ode to Failure”, at my upcoming book launch on Wednesday September 25th at The Gladstone Hotel in Toronto. The invitation to help celebrate the evening is open to all!