Why did the word ‘pain’ jump into my head when I saw this one? Sometimes, that’s the way I learn. Like a mouse in a maze, I treat the electric shocks life gives me as reasons not to go into certain directions. Sometimes, I’m slow and get shocked again and again before I actually learn not to go in a particular direction. Sometimes, I get it on the first time, and that’s better. However, either way, there are many life lessons I learn by hitting my head against a wall and realizing that the wall continues to not break, and maybe that’s a hint that I should look for a door.
Luckily, it’s not the only way in which I learn. Sometimes, learning is fun – not effortless, but fun. There are rewards along the way. Learning French or learning piano (two areas that I’m currently working on) are both challenging and out of my comfort zone, with many failures and missteps, but they’re not painful. In fact, they are a lot of fun. I like doing French lessons, and thinking about language and seeing how the words relate and how they don’t. I enjoy bouncing ideas off other people and I like getting points from my French language programs. I like being able to make beautiful music on the piano and to hear how notes get translated into sounds. I like people smiling when I play and I like passing tests and going up levels.
It’s hard to have levels when it comes to relationships. There’s no clear-cut answer to them. One doesn’t go from the acquaintance level to the buddy level to the friend level after a certain number of walks, conversations, and coffee breaks spent together. Relationships don’t work that way – they ebb and flow, full of frustrating reversals only matched with giant leaps of love and faith. Sometimes, they include pain and that pain – that is the place one can learn.
At least that’s the place I learn. I discover better communication techniques (ones that will help people smile, not yell at me.) I discover proper approaches so I don’t scare off the skittish ones. I discover new avenues to humour and shared experience (pain is great for this.) I wonder why it has to be so hard. Then I realize – learning is always fun.
I love learning. Finding out new ideas, gaining skills, solving puzzles, answer questions – these are what I love to do. Learning is very much a matter of satisfying that thirst for knowledge. As a Jew, I have the desire to learn as a major part of my heritage. One of the texts we study at many services, which talks about important good deeds like visiting the sick and welcoming guests, making peace and honouring parents says that the study of Torah is equal to them all (because it leads to them all.) When I leap into learning with a vim and a vigour, embracing each situation as a chance to discover what the universe holds, when I treat my life as a learning opportunity – learning remains fun.
It is when I resist the learning, claim I know, cling to old ideas with an unwillingness to grow, insist that things be done the way I think is best that it hurts to learn. Thirst is a good metaphor. Having a refreshing drink of water is wonderful. Trying to swallow on a parched throat, getting so thirsty it hurts, or having the water poured into your mouth because you won’t drink – those are no fun at all, and they hurt.
It takes a lot of humour for me to remember that this frustrating moment is a learning opportunity, and to accept the lessons in it with grace. It makes the learning fun, though – and since all life is a learning opportunity, it makes for a pretty fun life.