The Pain of Growth

Growing pains.

That’s always what they were. As a kid, I’d come to complain to my mom about yet another aching part of my body, and the reason was always growing pains.
It gave the pain some purpose, a sense of pride. I was in the process of growing, becoming older, getting taller.
Eventually, we all stop growing physically, our measurements coming to a slow halt, leaving us at relatively the same size as our 16-17 year old selves.
The growing pains ebb away, and I imagine the reminder of them comes as our own children turn to us and ask us about their own pain.
Growing pains.
So easily explained, so easily understood, so excusable for the hurt we feel.
But as we reach milestones, turn corners, and fall over as we awkwardly grow into emotional adults, the growing pains are so much more unclear.
They feel more like failure.
As we grip our aching soul, the pain seems to have no purpose, for the growth is hard to see.
This week, it is my birthday. I say that not to get a slew of birthday gifts (although welcome,) I say it to clarify why growth is something I’m really focusing on this week.
For what is growth?
Do birthdays mark growth?
Do I look back at the past year, and measure myself? Using what as the yardstick? Amassed funds? Amassed friends? Sweet memories?
What proves that I have grown between last years cake and this years?
To me, it’s all about the growing pains.
Because I have had them.
And while I was aching, there were times I persevered, believing in the purpose of the pain. But there were times I surrendered to the pain, eyes shut, hands up, and let it overtake me.
This year I expanded horizons, worked harder, re-focused, trampled my comfort zone.
I have also cried in the shower, eaten too much sugar, given up, and allowed my self-made limits to box me in.
I’m tempted, on my birthday, to ask G-d to wipe the world clean of challenges, of obstacles, of struggles.
But I fear that I would be asking Him to remove the color, to silence the joy.
I prefer to ask him to allow us to see the purpose of the pain.
To allow us to look in the mirror and smile through the ache, because we know that through our pain, we are painting the world with vibrant colors.
Without struggle, without challenge, there is no depth of joy, there are no intricacies of beauty.
I ask Him to wipe the world clean of endless grief, of grief so deep that the beauty is too deeply hidden to be asked to reveal itself.
But I ask Him to continue to challenge us, challenge us with pushing past our limits. Challenge us with obstacles we can see over, obstacles we know we can overcome.
Allow the growing pains to have a purpose, allow the pain to be only a roadblock, not the end of the road.
Because without growth, we fail, and without growing pains, we don’t notice the growth.
May my growing pains paint the picture of my future, strengthening my foundation, allowing me to build up and up and up.
Even joyous occasions come with growing pains  – adjusting to married life, a new baby, a brand new home, a new career. But these are the growing pains we can handle, these are the growing pains that make us better. That give our world more color, make life richer, that give life more purpose.
And so as I welcome a new year of my life, I look back at my growth. And I mark my growth by the pain. Not by how many days I felt defeated, but by how many days I felt euphoric, having overcome the challenge that had held me back.
And I ask G-d that He give me more of that strength, more of the ability to jump the hurdles, to push through the pain for the most epic of results:
Glorious, colorful, invigorating, beautiful growth.

Blog Post: 25/52

Let’s Talk About: #HappyChallenge

happinessWhen I was 12, I didn’t spend a lot of time with my grandparents. I lived in a different state, and we visited a few times a year. Each time we visited, we had dinner with my fathers parent’s, spending the evening with them. I was never really part of the conversation- it was always a very adult conversation, filled real life problems.

At some point during the year, I had the chance to spend two weeks in NY without the rest of my family. My brother who lived there at the time suggested that we go eat dinner with my grandparents, just the two of us.

So we did.

We ate in the kitchen, rather than the dining room.

The food was still just as thoughtfully and beautifully prepared, and there was plenty of it.

The conversation was different, with no parents or my other siblings around.

We spoke about me.

Well, my grandmother brought it up. She asked me about my writing. I, bashfully admitted that I was writing a novel (cringe.)

Interested, in only a way that a grandmother can be, she asked me what it was about.

Thrilled to receive the attention that my project so deserved,in my opinion, I described the plot in great detail. It obviously held details about tragedy and pain and suffering.

When I finished, my grandmother sighed and said “Why does everyone write about sad things? Why can’t someone write about something happy?”

At the time, I rolled my eyes. (In my head, not in reality. I was a good kid.)

All I said was, with the experience of a long-time writer, “Bubby, people aren’t going to read about happy things”

Somehow, it’s been three years since I last saw my Bubbys beautiful face.

Three years since I heard her laugh, and felt her hug, three years since I held her hand, and kissed her cheek with tears in my eyes, begging her to fight for us.

Three years since I heard her ask “Nu, Etti, what’s doing with your writing?”

It breaks my heart that I never got to show her anything worth reading.

It breaks my heart that she was my cheerleader, but I haven’t yet done anything to make her proud.

I haven’t written anything happy.

All my life, my pen came out when I was mad. When I was crying. When I was hurt and broken.

After my Bubby passed away, I wrote twelve things about losing her in the first week.

When I became distanced from beloved friends, I wrote.

When I was rejected from a school my friends were going to, I wrote.

When my grandfather passed away this past summer, I wrote.

When I was in the depths of my war against G-d, I wrote.

When things feel like they are falling apart, when my heart feels too small for all the sadness it feels, I turn to words.

But the one person who always remembered my love for words, the one person who asked about my greatest passion every time she saw me, asked me to write something happy.

Why haven’t I?

Tonight is Chanukah. The very first night of an eight day holiday that focuses on bringing light into the world.

I have had too much to write about the past few weeks. I don’t share everything I write. It would exhaust you. It exhausts me.

The pain is everywhere, the tears the world has shed can overflow the oceans.

Every human is in pain. Everyone is struggling, everyone is suffering. The world is the most terrifying place to be right now, and the fact that we are all in it together is not comforting this time.

Death is a reality, instead of a distant thought.

Self-identity is near impossible to discover, self-love is warped, and turns out, our world is self-destructing.

How can I not write about the pain?

But Chanukah is coming.

How am I helping the world by adding more pain?

There are eight nights of Chanukah.

I can find eight things this week that are happy. That are beautiful. That are universally heart-warming.

That is my challenge to myself this week.

I owe it to my grandmother.

I owe it to my self.

I’d love for you all to join me.

The #happychallenge.

We all need this.

I have one thing to ask of G-d though.

G-d? Please help me with this. Help me see the light in a world of darkness.

Make the light shine brighter and longer.

We need more than eight days of light, we need a lifetime, a never ending supply of happiness.

But I’ll start with these eight.

May this be the the easiest thing I have ever done.