For years I had upper back pain.

It was a sharp, pinchy feeling near my spine and shoulder blade. Massages didn’t help. I mentioned it to my doctor once, but there didn’t seem to be anything really wrong with my back.

But still, the pain persisted. I would wince and contort to try to find ways to hold myself that didn’t hurt. I did this awful maneuver where I would rotate my neck at a really odd, injured animal angle in an (often successful) attempt to pop my back. Negotiating the pain became a nearly constant preoccupation, like a program running in the background while I did other things. After awhile, I stopped seeing it as a problem to fix, and just accepted it as a new normal.

After years (7?) of enduring on-again-off-again pain, I finally went to see a chiropractor. After a thorough examination, he did some kind of black magic pop-pop to my back, and the pain was instantly gone.

The feeling of relief was overwhelming. I felt tall and open and free.

But the absence of the pain, the freedom I felt, felt wrong. This wasn’t my normal! Normal was aching and heating pads and pinching. I think I made it three days before I did my injured animal neck maneuver and got my spine out of alignment again.

The pain was back. Normalcy was restored.

A few weeks later, I went back to the chiropractor and told him what I’d done. He worked his magic again and the freedom returned.

I did this again. And again. And again.

After several months, I was finally able to leave everything alone and live with a healthy, free back.

But why did it take me so long? Why did I keep ruining things when they felt good? Why did I continue to create pain when I had a way to be free from it?

I had traded my pain for freedom, and that feeling was so foreign that couldn’t accept it.

Chronic pain has a way of getting you to support the status quo. If you have long-term dis-ease in your career, your relationships, or your health, get honest about what you’re doing to create that pain. Chances are, freedom is more available than think. You just have to be willing to endure the sensation of freedom.

Pain is free; freedom takes practice.

Laura Simms is an expert in meaningful work who challenges conventional wisdom by asking people to ditch their passions and start with purpose.

If you have too many passions, zero passions, or can't seem to combine your passions, try her purpose-first approach to find a career you love.  


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