A vie of Lac des Corbeaux (Crow Lake) with hiking shoes in the foreground.

Lighter with every step: recognizing pain & moving forward

The past few days I started feeling a sharp pain in my foot when I put pressure on it at a certain angle. Nothing unbearable, but wince-worthy nonetheless. There was nothing physically obvious, so I figured perhaps it was a pulled muscle protesting my new workout regime — I already had a few other muscles doing the same.

I gave it a few days, but as time passed, it became clear this discomfort wasn’t going to subside on its own.

It felt like stepping on a needle, slightly more intense each time I felt the pain. Finally yesterday I decided to put on my medical examiner hat and take matters (and my foot) into my own hands. I’ll spare you the details, but my little up-close encounter revealed the tiniest-ever shard of glass embedded in my skin.

Let me just say that the bottom of your foot is the worst place to have something invisibly stuck.

When I’d finally gotten the little bugger out, the pain actually redoubled, and unlike the previous isolated stabbing sensation, now it was constant. My skin was finally free to heal, and the inflammation arose with a burning persistence. Despite the intensified pain, though, the sense of relief was immediate: finally the healing could begin.

Sometimes we ignore the invisible sources of our pain, piercing and repiercing our physical, emotional, and mental health

It happens on various levels, causing issues of all sizes. We tell ourselves we’re too busy and we just need to buck up. The pain surfaces infrequently enough that we can carry on despite the warning signs, hoping it will simply go away, and gradually resolving ourselves to deal with it.

One year ago, I was experiencing exactly those kinds of invisible warning signs in my life. I’d noticed a growing sense of discomfort and aching for something to change, but when I took stock of my life, I could see no obvious signs of issues.

I had everything that I should want, according to conventional standards of success. Job, relationship, friendships, hobbies, achievements — my life was a well-oiled machine. I’d even recently gone through a physical transformation that built my confidence and defied my history with eating disorders, leaving me at my peak of physical fitness.

All the surface-level indicators of success might convince our conscious minds to ignore the mounting dissatisfaction tugging at our attention.

For me, the dissatisfaction surfaced only briefly at first, easily ignored with my busy schedule. Below the surface, though, the issues kept simmering, growing into a hotter and louder sense of dissatisfaction.

The moment it finally hit me was when I received a letter offering to renew my lease for the upcoming year. As I held that letter, I finally felt the full force of my need for change, and this time it was speaking clearly and urgently.

With very little understanding of this urgent need for change, and even less understanding of travel itself, I booked a one-way trip to travel in Europe, and thus began the process of removing the invisible shards in my life.

By the time the pain is bad enough to face, it’s going to be an urgent process that hurts like hell.

By the time I faced my pain signals and booked that flight, I was a walking time bomb. Tensions at work had risen to an all-time high. I was in a relationship that was unfulfilling to both of us. Even my highly-effective fitness and nutrition plan had left me feeling deprived, obligated, and empty of real enjoyment.

I’d spent so much effort pushing toward things that I had learned to equate with success that I had fallen vastly out-of-tune with my own needs. I was physically, mentally, and emotionally drained, and every day I ignored that truth, I spiraled further into a cloud of confusion and frustration.

Healing starts with a dramatic and inflammatory decision, but the true risk is in leaving things as they are.

One year after making my decision to move, my life has changed on every plane. I’ve let go of my desperate grip on the standards of “success” that had previously dictated my actions, and I’ve experimented with ways to build a life that honor my needs and true desires.

Writing outside with wineThe healing is ongoing, and just as with removing that shard of glass from my foot, the pain got worse before it got better. I had to face issues that I’d been ignoring and hiding for months and even years, but standing on the other side of that pain, I have an overwhelming sense of relief. I’ve walked away from a lot of the things that were weighing me down, and I’m taking new steps forward every day to build my authentic version of happiness.

I shared some of my journey on this blog, and I intend to eventually share it on a deeper level, but the message behind the story is this: heed those shards of glass when you feel them.

Pain and discontentment — however fleeting — don’t arise out of nowhere, and the longer you refuse to face them, the more intensely they’ll burn.

Your body and your mind are constantly collaborating to bring you to a place of peace and safety and contentment, and sometimes the threats to that state of being are buried so deeply or camouflaged so completely that they escape conscious detection.

Whether loud and flashing or fuzzy and gradual, those warning signs are worth your attention. There is a truth somewhere embedded in those feelings, and your relief depends on finding that source.

The first step in healing is to extract the shards, but once you face that source of pain, it lightens with every step forward.

Love & light,

Jacquelyn

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2 thoughts on “Lighter with every step: recognizing pain & moving forward

  1. Great article! You did a wonderful job sharing your experience with unhappiness and deciding to fight against that feeling. You’re truly an inspiration 🙂

    • That’s so sweet, thank you! It can be a tough place to escape the familiar (even the painful familiar) but it is so worth the effort!

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