“The pain you feel today will be the strength you feel tomorrow.” ~Unknown
It’s when you’ve woken up with a full day ahead of you after only two hours of sleep.
It’s when there’s nothing for you to do but sit by your friends as they deal with tragedies and all the hard stuff life throws at us.
It’s when you don’t know how to handle the situations in your life that are anything but black and white.
It’s when you feel utterly helpless and powerless as you watch someone you care about aching with the deep soul wounds that only come from losing the person that comprised the other half of their heart.
It’s when your own heart feels as though it’s been crushed beyond recognition over and over again.
It’s when your path is entirely unclear and you don’t know if the next step is solid ground or off a cliff.
It’s when you’re not sure if the decisions you’ve made are the right ones.
It’s when sometimes you realize they weren’t.
It’s when it looks as though the world is irrevocably falling apart.
It’s when it seems like people are becoming more and more disconnected, lonely, and afraid.
It’s when you feel as though there’s no way you can even begin to help fix any of it.
It’s when you realize that, in spite of it all, you really are smart and strong enough to make it through step by agonizingly slow step.
It’s when you realize that just when you thought you had nothing left to give, you find you actually have everything left to give and more.
It’s when you want to give up on it all, but find that one thing that drives you to keep going.
It’s easy to love and give and feel happy and alive when things are going well, when we feel as though the world is our oyster. But what happens when life feels as though it’s caving in with a spirit crushing weight?
Over the course of 48 hours I found out a friend died, two of the people closest to me are supporting their moms as they contend with cancer, several friends are struggling with family issues, and all the while I’m attempting to balance out 14 hour work days as a counselor at a residential high school, but just wishing I was home to be with everyone.
It reminds me a lot of when I was working out and training for hours on end. There would come times when I felt exhausted, burnt out, and desperately wanted to quit. But then I remembered my goal.
I remembered that the pain and discomfort were temporary, and the strength, endurance, flexibility, and functionality I was gaining were invaluable.
While working out seems like an insignificant comparison to major life events, the psychological training is the same. What you tell yourself in moments that seem unimportant is what reemerge when things get hard. As the quote goes, “You don’t rise to the level of your expectations, you fall to the level of your training.”
You don’t grow when things are easy and effortless. You grow when you’re being challenged—sometimes beyond what you think you’re capable of handling.
We carry ideas of what we think loving and living are until something comes along and redefines how we see it all. Sometimes it redefines it by making it appear as though it’s completely broken or entirely gone.
But you know what the beautiful part of it all is?
Just because we think something is broken doesn’t mean that it can’t be mended in some way.
And just because we think we can’t see something doesn’t mean it’s not there. The world around us reminds us of it all the time. Even the sun, moon, and stars silently show us that they exist even when there’s too much in the way to see them.
It’s not easy. It’s really, really hard. In fact, sometimes it looks nearly impossible. How are we supposed to gather our scattered bits of resolve to rebuild the will to keep moving forward when all we really want to do is curl up and hide from the world?
It’s those times we have to step aside and heal in whatever way we can, and in that time, remember (or find) what it is that keeps us going.
It’s when we think we have no reason left to love, and sometimes when we question our very existence, that we have to allow ourselves to find and create a whole new beauty from what may have felt like (and maybe was) an end.
As Cormac McCarthy wrote in All the Pretty Horses, “…those who have endured some misfortune will always be set apart but it is just that misfortune which is their gift and which is their strength.”
If we are open to the lessons from our hardships, misfortunes, and tragedies they will inevitably build within us an increasingly unshakable compassion, understanding, and love.
Losing so much of what I’ve loved and watching as friends contend with their own losses, I’ve learned that when it seems things couldn’t be any worse, that’s when it’s most important to gather every last bit of will and heart and forge the faith to keep believing that love and life are worth every single moment.
Even those that break our hearts.
It’s in those moments when we have to learn how to love and live again.
“It’s times like these you learn to live again. It’s times like these you give and give again. It’s times like these you learn to love again.” ~Foo Fighters
Photo by Harsha K R