“Sir, Your Pain is Scheduled for 10:30am.”

“Thanks Maggie. Please hold all calls until lunch, ok?”

I had impromptu coffee with Ash yesterday. He was in town, called me, asked if I wanted to hang, and when Ash wants to hang, you just hang. That’s how it is.

Of course, things went deep. How’s the wife? How are the kids? How’s work? How’s not working? What is the meaning of time and space? Who is God? Does She have a personal assistant?

Like that.

At some point, the conversation turned to the nature of pain, physical and emotional. What is it? How does it affect us? I said something in the course of the conversation that made some sense, and Ash looked at me and said… “You need to write that down!”

Here I am, doing that. Here’s what I said, in a nutshell.

Life is pain. The very act of living is painful. We’re born into pain, and we die in pain. If you’re in pain, you know you’re alive. The question is this: do you want your pain working for you, or do you want to be its slave?

See… I was fat. Really fat. Like 320 pounds fat. Now, I am fit. I’ve lost nearly 100 pounds. I have muscles, and I can run 7 miles without stopping, and I can touch my toes. I do pilates and yoga and eat salad and have become a regular hippie. This process has been ongoing for 2.8 years thus far, and will never stop.

I got fit through a process of deliberately causing pain to my body. The body doesn’t like pain, doesn’t like the feeling of aching muscles. So, it gets all bent out of shape, goes in, and rebuilds the tissue… stronger, leaner, more equipped. This process burns calories, and fat. Then, of course, you have to do it again, and again. You literally incinerate your fat from the inside out.

It hurts. It hurts like hell. At first, when you start walk / jogging, your lungs feel like they’re gonna fall out of your chest. Your feet hurt. Your back hurts. Your knees hurt. Heck, your butt hurts. Most people stop because it hurts. Oh, also, you have to starve your body of calories, which also hurts. You have to purposefully and, of course, healthily, deny your body external food, so that it has to go to the resources it can get to, namely the resources that jiggle on your tummy. Being hungry doesn’t “Hurt” in the same way, but it is uncomfortable, and you get grumpy, and it all sucks.

So… why do it? Well, here’s something to consider: life is pain, and pain is life. Do you want your pain working for you, or do you want to be its slave? When I weighed 320+ pounds, my back hurt all the time. My knees were sore, all the time. My spine was crooked near the top, and slouched forward, causing chronic pain in my shoulders. I would sweat while sitting still. Airplane rides and shopping for pants were exercises in humiliation and discomfort. I couldn’t tie my shoes standing up. I was not likely to drop to the floor and play with my young daughter. I didn’t like going to the beach, or the pool. I had a chip on my shoulder, because I thought everyone was judging me because of my weight. I was a slave to my pain.

But now, (and this is, I think, what Ash reacted to) my pain is scheduled. I manage it. I make it work for me. I do not have back pain. I do not have a curved back. I do not sweat until I say so. I love shopping for pants. I can do a pull up. I am confident. I enjoy being on stage when we’re singing. I don’t fear people’s judgement… well, at least in the area of physical appearance.

Being fit has not solved all my problems, but having been both morbidly obese and a model for healthy living, I am prepared to make a value discernment and tell you that I experience less personal pain when it’s scheduled and maintained.

Schedule your pain. Make it work for you, instead of against you.

30 thoughts on ““Sir, Your Pain is Scheduled for 10:30am.”

  1. michael lee

    That’s nice and all, but when are you going to replace your gravatar image with something we can look at without squinting and using a flashlight?

  2. Sharolyn

    Chad, I am beaming proud for you. You are the most mentally-healthy person I know who has lost that much weight. I never thought less of you before, but wow, you look great!

    Scheduling pain… I’ll keep that in my pocket for a hard day…

  3. Doug

    For a moment I thought Chad had turned Buddhist–”Life means suffering. To live means to suffer”. First Noble Truth of Buddhism. But then I finished reading the post.
    I like what you are saying, Chad. It reminds me that pain can be redemptive.
    That’s all I have to say, I am going to work out now.

  4. Chad Post author

    I guess my thoughts were more about being proactive in pain, as where it seems like the Buddhist philosophy is more about endurance.

    My thought is this… pain’s coming for you one way or another. The only question is whether it’s pain that you’ve chosen, which will result in a stronger and healthier body (and spirit, if you ask me…) or the sort of pain that’s from a lack of use and the breaking down of our bodies.

  5. june

    Or, the third kind of pain…which walks up to you on a sunny day and slaps you to the ground and does a little jig on your head. That’s the kind of pain I know best. But, I have high hopes for becoming a runner, so perhaps I’ll know the chosen kind of pain soon. Whoo-hoo! That’s a sincere “whoo-hoo”…pushing 40 is showing on every part of me. ergh. I bought a little doggy raincoat at Old Navy tonight so my little doggy can run with me…that’s half the battle right?

    (Chad, you rock. Thanks for writing this. I may not be “really fat” but I’m really outta shape and this is inspiring…on more levels than just the level of my sagging butt.)

  6. harmonicminer

    Pain is regularly scheduled in my life. I go to faculty meetings. I watch TV, and occasionally have to listen to Obama or Pelosi for a moment before I can find the remote. I go to student recitals.

    Sometimes, I sing. Trust me, it hurts me more than it hurts you.

  7. Bobby

    [Pain] is the path to the dark side. [Pain] leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

    Chad has brought balance to the Force.

  8. Chad Post author

    First Buddha, then Yoda. Pushing the boundaries of widely accepted evangelical theology, apparently I am.

  9. Bill Heatley

    I’m not sure I would go so far as to say that life is pain but I do embrace the role of pain in the process of real growth and progress. During my recovery from my motorcycle accident I had 21 hours of surgery, had a stroke, got addicted to and had withdrawl from Demerol, got phlebitis and was told I would never walk again. Moving beyond all of that has demanded a lifelong willingness to enbrace pain, to know its nature and purpose to understand its strident voice. I’ve learned the difference between the voice of “fear of pain” and actual pain and I daily to move through the lure of holding still and doing nothing. I keep my vision on what lies beyond the pain, what comes when I have passed through it and I persevere because of the vision I have and the knowledge that I do not walk alone.

    How much of life do we miss because we fear pain? Can we ever become who we, and God, intend us to be without a fair measure of pain? Is anything of greatness or goodness ever acheived without sacrifice and pain?

    Are we keeping our children from these lessons or embracing their journey of becoming?

  10. Eric

    Bumper sticker philosophy: If you’re going through hell, don’t stop going.

    At the risk of being critical (at least I’m commenting on your words and not your Gravatar, Chad ;-), I think Bill is a bit closer. I don’t think that life is pain, but pain is surely part of life. It isn’t possible to avoid pain (though I’m really good at trying); all that happens is that you exchange one flavor of pain for another. I really like your followup thought: proactive, not merely endurance.

    I use my fear of pain as an excuse to stay in unhealthy places that God never meant for me to be, both mental and physical. When I am able to embrace pain (generally relational, not physical), it’s usually far less painful that I imagined, and leaves me in a much better place in the end. Knowing this doesn’t keep me from running away, of course.

  11. Chad Post author

    I guess what I’m trying to point out is that pain is inevitable, and an integrated and important part of the human existence.

    I know a lot of people who fear pain, (in this case, physical pain) so they settle for pain they already know, not realizing that scheduled pain actually hurts less and produces fruit, as where the pain of apathy simply breeds more pain.

    The more I think about this, the more I am certain that it applies to emotional pain as well. It’s painful, emotionally, to break an addictive cycle. But it’s more painful to remain it that cycle, IMO.

  12. harmonicminer

    So, does that mean there is some “scheduled pain” I could endure that would help me to avoid faculty meetings?

    Maybe I could break my arm right before it or something, and have a good excuse to miss it, being in the ER and all.

  13. Eric

    Chad, I understood that you weren’t really saying that life = pain, but rather that pain was a normal and unavoidable part of life. From extensive personal ‘research’ and experience, I can tell you this axiom does apply to emotional pain as well as physical. You are right that it’s more painful to remain in addiction than to break the cycle, but from within, the devil you know is better than the one you don’t.

    Phil, don’t you think breaking an arm is a little extreme and kind of long-term? Maybe something more like a colonoscopy?

  14. june

    All your gravatars are wigging me out a little. Mike is the only one who looks happy…and I think that’s only because of the painting behind him. Are the rest of you in pain? Chad…so thin, so flat-ironed, so fashiony, so…. melancholy. Double-headed Eric…that’s all I have to say about that. Phil looks, I dunno, sorta maybe kinda happy, in a mid-wordy kind of way. Bobby is reeeeally happy. Not sure Bill is even included in his gravatar.

    Back to what you were saying..

  15. Bill Heatley

    Ok, ok, I changed it a bit. I’m standing in front of the General Sherman Sequoia with my son and daughter.

  16. Eric Haas

    Ah, I was trying to be clever – being of two minds, you know. Let’s see if this works. I don’t have that much to work with – what you see is what you get.


  17. Chad Post author

    Oooh, now I know how to annoy Michael. I’m going to start using gravatar for evil instead of good.

  18. Leonard

    Life and pain do seem to travel on the same bus and often share the same seat too. I hope and pray my life will not be defined by my pain but rather a testimony to the healing. I have a friend who has a very visible scar. This scar gets asked about a lot too. My friend tells of the miracle that took place, the impact of courageous doctors, the hope present in what seemed terminal and the freedom experienced because of what happened that left them a scar. They do not talk about the scar, the hurt caused by repeated questions and staring, the anguish of dressing wounds, uncertainty and touch and go… Nope their pain does not define them.

    We as people are defined by our pain or what we do to manage or avoid our pain. This is sad.

    The bible records the pain of Jesus, not from the perspective of his pain but from the perspective of the cruelty of men. It defines his pain in the context of how people acted not in how he grimaced. I think this is telling and quite opposite for how we describe pain today.

    In my pain, I have made the following choices.

    I will not be defined by pain but rather by my savior whose presence in my pain is enough, his power over my pain is at HIS discretion and whose path to healing in my life was to redeem my pain, not remove my pain.

    I will ask, God when this is through, will you be proud of me. Will I have handled this in such a way as honored you?

    I will rearrange my desires to long to be like Christ rather than to have Christ fit neatly into my world and become my pain management guru. If he will use anything and everything to make me like Christ, then I will give thanks in all circumstances.

    Sounds spiritual, still working at it. Some days I see God growing me and on others I whine. Thanks Chad for a though provoking post.

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