I love reading. I love words and I love stories and so I love reading, I always have. Still despite my love for it, as I’ve gotten older – I tend to get out of the habit of consistent reading. My life might be busy or I’m doing a lot of reading for university and so while my love for reading remains true – the actual reading slows down. Sometimes I stop reading because I’m busy or sometimes because I came across a challenging book. It sort of stumped me and I’m struggling to get into it.
I know what I like to read. I know what are ‘easy reads’ for me and which authors and which styles of books I can knock over in a day or two and which ones will tend to drag out. So if I know I just want a good, quick, easy read – I know where on the bookshelf to look. I sometimes (quite often) read the same book twice (multiple times actually) because I know how much I love it, the safe option. However sometimes I get adventurous and think crazy thoughts like ‘Perhaps I should mix it up and read this autobiography, or this thriller, or this classic novel’. And then I start to resent my adventurous crazy side because it’s kind of hard. You just can’t get into and you’re stuck at Chapter 3 and it’s just not happening.
Sometimes I find myself re-reading the same words over and over again and getting nowhere. Sometimes I put the book down for so long that when I finally do decide to give it another shot, I’ve forgotten everything that happened and I have to start from the beginning – and yet I’m still stuck at chapter 3. Fast Forward 5 months and I still can’t finish Wuthering Heights. It’s meant to be a classic, it’s meant to be good – it’s just not for me. So I shelve the book, annoyed that it somehow beat me and I pretend I never even started it. In fact I remove it from the shelf so it can’t taunt me. And yes, I have a strange relationship with reading.
Oh boy did I get slammed when I realized how much my relationship to reading and books related to my relationship with pain and processing.
Sometimes in life we shelve our feelings for some particular reason. Something hurt us, pretty bad – but for whatever reason, we shelved the emotions. “I can’t deal with this right now – so I’m just going to put these feelings over here and come back to them later”. Perhaps you are the same in that you tried giving it a go – you sat down and said ‘I’m going to deal with “blank” issue now’. You got going and you were reading and dealing and then you got to about Chapter 3 and you stalled. It got too hard, you weren’t seeing any results and you gave it up. You shelved it and thought ‘perhaps pain really isn’t for me, I’m actually looking for a quick easy read anyway’.
I don’t need a really great book analogy to explain that unresolved pain or issues from the past – need to be dealt with. They might not trip you up now – but no matter how “together” you are – they will trip you up at some point.
Unresolved pain is like that book you could never finish. You’ve put enough distance between yourself and the pain that you almost don’t remember why you were hurting. You spent enough time away from it or neglecting it or kicking it further underneath your bed where everything you’re looking for seems to hide and you almost don’t remember why.
What really sucks is that now you have to re-read through Chapters 1 and 2. The stuff you wished was behind you. The stuff you need to deal with and remember so that you can move past Chapter 3.
As humans, we’re conditioned to believe we can just pick up where we left off.
As humans, we’re conditioned to shelve our pain and process it later.
We never really do.
As humans, we’re conditioned to ignore the little signals and triggers that unresolved pain emits.
Those signals are signs of deep emotional damage and it’s worth taking a look.
I know it seems hard and tedious and painful – but you need to pick that unfinished book up off the shelf. You need to pick up the pain and allow yourself to feel it and then move forward. Don’t pick up the ‘easy reads’ and just try and coast through life taking the easy way out. You need to know that beyond Chapter 3 is when the story starts to get good. It’s when you start to invest in the character – it’s when you figure out the character’s purpose and direction and it is only when you finish that book – that the story is complete. I’m not saying you’ll love the book or even that it gets easier – but it will be complete. Only then can you be whole.