Can We Turn Pain into Joy?

by Belinda Munoz on February 18, 2010


Yesterday, I had the incredible privilege of spending an entire day with a woman who is an inspiration to millions of women (and men!) worldwide. She is a best-selling author, an award-winning playwright, a peaceful warrior and an instigator of an impactful global movement dedicated to ending violence against women and girls.


This woman, a quintessential optimist named one of US News and the Kennedy School of Government’s “Best Leaders” in 2009, will always say yes to this question. Always.

She certainly turned her pain on its head. Having endured an unspeakable offense as a child, she emerged joyful and purposeful with an exquisite brand of inner strength. An inner strength that nurtures and replenishes as she enduringly empowers others to turn their pain into joy.


It was an exceptional day. I wish you had been there to bear witness to experiences so profound that a blog post — mere words — simply can’t capture.

Words like femicide and fistula were spoken, and I admit, my overly conditioned and mostly civilized psyche struggled to comprehend the reality of these words. Words whose existence and persistence today ask brutally confrontational questions about humanity: yours, mine, his, hers. Words that don’t register and resonate without a gasp or a sigh or some kind of reaction to regulate our natural biology. Words that are devoid of subtlety, grace, peacefulness and love.

Certain words starting with the letter V were mentioned.

Some poetic words in the form of a monologue were read.

Words that only Eve Ensler can weave and write and speak so wonderfully well.


Were there tears? Yes. Were there laughs? Sure. Was there love? Absolutely and a whole lot of it!

After all, we’re talking about a woman who wrote a new book called I Am an Emotional Creature. We’re talking about a woman who has excavated her pain, sorrow,  insecurities and imperfections and morphed them into a colorful, joyful, peaceful, loving armour.

But not just an armour.

An armour-turned-blanket-turned-tent-turned-embrace-turned-sisterhood-turned-humanity at its best.

And, as gut-wrenching as  the stories are that Eve tells, you can’t escape her contagious positive, feminine energy when you’re with Eve. It rubs off on you. And it has, on me.

After a day with Eve, an infusion of empowerment and optimism takes over and makes me feel lucky to be alive, privileged to have opportunities and happy to be in a position to help not only myself but also others.


I’d love to tell you about Eve’s latest project called “City of Joy”, a healing oasis that promises hope in the wounded and love-starved Democratic Republic of Congo. A place on earth whose desecration is surreal and legendary. A place whose pulse is weak; where humanity’s heartbeat needs a pacemaker.

But not today. Today, I’d like to ask a question:

Can we turn pain into joy?

Please share your thoughts about this question and leave a comment for a chance to win an autographed copy of Eve Ensler’s latest book I Am An Emotional Creature. Men, if not for yourself, perhaps you’d like to win it to give to a special woman or girl in your life.

If you’d like to learn more about “City of Joy”, please e-mail me at belindavm @ gmail dot com.

Click here for Eve Ensler’s inspirational Nov. ’09 India TED talk.

Image by NoXstar

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Being Alive « Why Not Start Now?
February 24, 2010 at 10:37 pm

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Patty - Why Not Start Now? February 18, 2010 at 10:32 pm

Thanks for this, Belinda. It’s wonderful to read about your day with Eve, to see her through your eyes, to feel, in each of your words, how much she inspires you. I so believe we can turn pain into joy. There are countless stories of people rising from the pain of abuse and atrocities, and finding their gold in the shadows of that terribleness. Again and again I am reminded that the joy of life wants to be lived. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Not so much the brutal suffering you speak of here, but rather the garden-variety sorrows and hurts we all experience. And sometimes I wonder if we limit our definition of joy by shutting sorrow and hurt out of it. I don’t quite know how to explain it even; something about what being alive means. Maybe someday I’ll write about it.


2 Belinda Munoz February 18, 2010 at 11:16 pm

Hi Patty, I’m glad you brought up our often limited definition of joy. So many among us go through great lengths to avoid pain (and would rather be medicated or worse) than let the blues run its course. There are so many countries where they simply don’t have that luxury and that the only way for them to overcome the pain is to go through it. I think it’s possible to fill our lives with as much joy as possible, but I don’t think actively avoiding pain and sorrow is synonymous to being joyful. I think the reason Eve is so effective at what she does is because she has mastered the art of feeling.


3 Nicki February 19, 2010 at 4:20 am

Wonderful words! I wish I could have been there.

I think we have to experience the pain, the downs, the valleys for the joy, the ups, the heights to be recognizable. Without one, the other is just a straight line.


4 Gini Martinez February 19, 2010 at 4:52 am

I think too often people’s paradigm of life is: happy childhood, angst filled adolescence, independent co-education, find love, career (not necessarily in that order) & live happily ever after! Whenever a perceived obstacle stands in the way of the order of those things, causing us pain, it is seen as a failure not only from within but by those witnessing. I believe we are all here for our own individual journey and much like in childbirth, if pain isn’t pushed away out of fear, it can always lead to even greater joy.


5 Positively Present February 19, 2010 at 6:45 am

What a great post! It’s amazing how related joy and pain are sometimes, isn’t it…


6 Nadia - Happy Lotus February 19, 2010 at 8:50 am

Hi Belinda,

We definitely can take pain and turn it into joy. I had a very bad childhood and teenage years. It was one traumatic event after another and I often wondered if I would ever survive it all. Two of my friends who went through similar experiences ended up having to be institutionalized for a short time. I fortunately did not go down that road. What kept me going was hope and I was determined to overcome all the crap that came my way. Plus, I had really loving parents.

It took time and a lot of work but I was able to overcome that pain. Yes, pain can be turned into joy. And funny enough, I look back at those years as being blessings in disguise for it enabled me to be where I am today.

The human will can do anything…it just simply has to want it badly enough and be willing to do the work that is necessary to achieve it.

If I could overcome my crappy past, anyone can.


7 Bob Bessette February 19, 2010 at 9:10 am

Hi Belinda,
Good question, “Can we turn pain into joy?” I think we can. Take, for example, the pain that you endure when a loved one is suffering and passes on. From that pain can come a celebration of that person’s life and joy comes with that celebration. This may not be along the lines of what you were getting at, but it is an example. I lost my brother years ago and the pain of loss I felt was profound, for a long time. Now when I think of him, I think of him in a joyful way and remember his gifts, wit, and intelligence.
I like to think we can learn from painful experiences and make our life joyful, in spite of that pain.



8 ayo February 19, 2010 at 1:10 pm

hi belinda,
loved this.
yes we can derive joy from pain and i speak based on personal experiences. I have been through several difficulties, lost friends, family(my dad), been rejected but at the end of the day i have come out joyful armed with knowledge & experience.
have a lovely weekend.


9 BK February 19, 2010 at 7:22 pm

I certainly believe we can. From the poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley, “… I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” We cannot always control the circumstances that happen around us, but we can also control how we want to feel. It is a challenge and will take a lot of practice. However, I believe that everything happen for a reason and there is opportunity to grow from what happen. Even in pain, there is opportunity for growth too.


10 Bellinda Munoz February 22, 2010 at 8:11 am

Hi everyone, according to the raffleking, the randomly picked winner is Dani aka Positively Present! Here’s the link to raffleking in case you’re curious about how the winner was picked:


11 Lauren March 11, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Wow, I just watched Eve’s TED talk and it reduced me to girl tears. What an inspiration. I used to think I loved being a girl just so I could go to the bathroom with my friends, but I have come to realize it’s so much more.

Thank you for sharing this gem.

Be Well,


12 Lauren March 11, 2010 at 12:56 pm

And, yes, we can turn pain into joy. I have done so in my own life and made that decision long ago. One day I recognized that is called RESILIENCE.


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