I got a text message from a friend that said "Miranda Lambert's new record has a song about you!" With the gravitational pull of a best-in-class Facebook fake news article, I immediately pushed play on Spotify. With her first line “hey Mr. Tin Man” it was like she was speaking directly to me. She was offering me her Blake-Shelton-trampled heart in exchange for my armor. I had to respond. It didn't feel like a fair trade--for her...
I first took on the Tin Man moniker in 2014 after a period of intense heartbreak that left me literally sobbing on my couch for two weeks. At the time, I had just lost the two things I held most dear -- my company and the girl I thought I was going to marry. In the span of a month, my girlfriend at the time achieved the coveted "first girl to break up with me" award and the largest investor in my tech startup Mowgli told me he was pulling out. Life pulled out the carpet I had thought was magical from under my feet. No more Prince Ali. Back to Aladdin.
Talking about emotional pain is tricky, because as humans we are compulsive about comparing ourselves to others. One on hand, the pain I was feeling at that time was crushing. Debilitating. On the other hand, I am beyond blessed that my version of extreme pain was losing a company and a relationship. Not food, shelter, or a family member. So many people have it so much worse than I did. But if we let ourselves get caught up in that comparison too much, we fail to address the pain we're experiencing. So usually we'll just avoid it or try to eliminate it instead.
My entire life up to that point had been premised on the belief that happiness was achieved by eliminating pain. If there was pain, I would wait it out or try and solve it.
So to solve it, I decided to hike the Camino de Santiago. I had twelve days to devote to it at a pace of 13 miles a day. Easy right?
Day 1 of my hike I set off on my first 13 mile stretch with ignorant, hopeful bliss. Mind you, I am NOT a hiker. Not surprisingly, though surprising to me at the time, my feet were in remarkably extreme pain that night – and the next morning. I wasn’t sure I could even hike the next day. But I pushed forward nonetheless.
Half-way into my next 13 mile stretch I convinced myself I’d get used to it – the pain would go away eventually. But Day 2 ended just like Day 1. So did Day 3. And 4. At this point I started to realize that the pain was consuming the majority of my focus. Preventing me from connecting more deeply with the amazing people I was meeting along the way. Preventing me from truly soaking in the beauty of Northern Spain and my surroundings.
It was Day 5, a shorter, but completely uphill 8-mile trek, when I heard that still, subtle voice that had lead me to Spain in the first place. “It doesn’t go away.” The words lingered. I had to stop and sit. After a few minutes of self-dialog and lawyerly negotiation I submitted to the voice. There is always pain. There is always beauty. Sometimes one or the other is more prominent, commanding our attention in the moment, but they’re both always there. Ebbing and flowing as they do in life, there is always perfect balance between pain and beauty. I have found it’s a matter of focus, not avoidance.
Embrace the pain. Focus on the beauty.
Oh my dear Miranda
Tell me can ya feel my emptiness
Is this what you wish?
Ooo ooo ooo ooo Ooo ooo ooo ooo
I wish I was you
Cause what you don't know
Is I was once whole
Just like new
Once upon a time
I had a love of mine
These rusty parts held a beating heart
But she grew weak and weary
And in my grief I buried
My heart that night
Wish I could miss my wife
Oh to feel is such a beautiful gift
Yes what you feel is such a beautiful gift
I used to care what I did
I had a reason to live
I'm swinging steel at my brain
So I feel something at all
Oh my dear Miranda
You can have my suit of armored parts
But what's to guard if you don't have a heart?