You’re hurting, aren’t you? In your own quiet way, you are whispering a soliloquy of misery. You feel trapped, afraid, unsure, hopeless. You are in pain. Do you know how I know? Because I hurt, too.
The fact is, there is no one who lives and breathes amongst us who hasn’t felt dark and detached at some point in their lives. But your pain? It’s particularly potent. It’s born of guilt from a life too privileged, too perfect to complain about, too blessed to be cursed. Your hurt resonates so powerfully because it’s buried under layers of advantage and opportunity, and it invokes feelings of deep shame to expose your seemingly unjustified pain.
I am here to remind you that your ache is valid. It arose from the same place that our collective pain comes from-- the desire for a peaceful, content, and lovingly abundant life.
Just because you are not keening from the loss of a loved one, or you aren’t scrounging for your next meal, or you have (so far) escaped hospitalization with a terminal illness, your own form of life support is clearly AWOL right now, and you have the right to feel all the feels. The fact that you are happily married, or that your kids are honor students and have dodged arrest (so far), or that you are well paid and well fed… these things do not oblige you to consistently bask in the glow of blessings bestowed.
The truth is, no matter how much you have your shit together, people will betray you, they will disappoint you, they will reject you. You will actually betray, disappoint and reject yourself more often than they do.
And therein lies the pain, the misery, and the gut wrenching heartache. You have no reason to feel sad and dejected, as far as the naked eye can see. But, the fact is, as we live and breathe, we encounter pain. It’s inevitable. There is no escaping it for anyone, and your pain in particular does NOT need to be validated with conditions of poverty and sacrifice.
Depression, anger, and resentment are all very real emotions, and wealth and privilege do not make you suffer-resistant. In fact, these things can make you even more sensitive to the rough patches we sometimes scrape up against. I happen to know at least one mega millionaire who is always in a foul mood. Some of the richest people I know are the most miserable. Have you ever stopped to consider why? How about the fact that wealth is a magnet for false friendships littered with false expectations that your hard work entitles them to ‘just a tiny bit’ of your reward. This constant stream of peer panhandling has to affect your faith (and belief) in people who pose as friends and confidantes.
What about the authentic ones who don’t assume you are the personification of an ATM? It is easy to grow suspicious of them, too, and you get to a point where it’s just altogether safer to go it alone. It becomes too tricky to tell the good from the bad, and who has the energy for that anyway? If you are a person of influence, are your friends in fact ‘friendly’ because they truly value you for you? Again, it’s hard to know and that’s why some of the most powerful people have the smallest circle of friends. These are often overlooked consequences of so-called success.
People who suffer from these trespasses are reluctant to give voice to them or perhaps even acknowledge them.
It’s like asking people to feel sorry for a model. Wealth and beauty rarely invoke feelings of sympathy, let alone compassion. Layer that harsh truth on top of the misery, and you’ve made yourself a shit sandwich that stinks from a mile away. And the one thing you desperately want to share, you find yourself eating alone.
While you may not be a billionaire or a model, you may be feeling a degree of that same guilt layered on top of your misery. Guilt that is born from the constant refrain of our parents, ‘there are children starving in Africa, finish your dinner.’
It’s that very attitude, and one that is ingrained in us as children, that we are somehow not worthy of feelings of sadness, or hopelessness, or heart wrenching agony.
From a young age, we are made acutely aware that there is always someone suffering more desperately, more keenly, and that only they are deserving of the privilege of pain. Guess what? We are all worthy of every single emotion we feel, whether it’s real or imagined, justified or condemned. From the lonely billionaire to the man begging on the street, and everyone in between, your pain is real and hard and gritty.
In fact, when we allow ourselves to feel these feelings without recrimination, we are opening our hearts to firsthand knowledge of what misery feels like, and how achingly sadness hurts. Just as we cannot see the light without the darkness, we cannot feel compassion without experiencing pain. You are meant to actively experience every moment of your life, including all the twists and turns, the ups and downs. And, if you happen to be in a rainy, damp and dreary turn, today or even for a longer than that, I raise my misery flag in solidarity with you. Fuck happiness, it is elusive in this moment.
Sometimes, life sucks.
Often times, I feel like a failure, frustrated, defeated, completely worn out. In these moments, I need to wallow in my pain for just a bit longer. I need to feel the misery, without excuses, without compulsion and, especially, without justification. Sometimes, we simply hurt, badly. And it sucks,badly. Lean into it. Your salvation is closer than you think.
When you are ready to see the light, or if you can see even a sliver or a dot of brightness, here are some things you can do to pull yourself back to the love you deserve to give yourself every single day:
1. Go online and search for local charities in your town. Schedule one hour in the coming week to volunteer there in person.
2. Stop at the grocery store and buy a bag of lollipops. Walk through downtown, and hand them out randomly.
3. Vow to make eye contact and smile at the next five people you see.
4. Visit your town’s closest assisted living center during your lunch hour, and ask if you can give a reading for the residents. Bring your favorite book of poems or a collection of short stories. If you’ve got the time, stay a while longer and listen to the stories of some old-timers. There is so much wisdom in long-lived lives.
5. Comb through your home, collect all your old blankets and sheets that haven’t been put into use for at least a year, and bring them to an animal shelter. While you’re there, pet a few dogs and cats. Everyone and every living thing needs love.
6. Set your timer for 10 minutes and write your younger self a love letter. Tell your little boy or little girl how much you value them, and tell them exactly why. Tell them what they can expect as they grow older within you. Assure them of your love and affection even through the rough times, especially through the pain.
Finally, you must never feel alone. Your pain is my pain and my pain is our pain, and we will get through this together because I hear your hurt from the depths of my soul.
Your pain slices my heart like a battle-ready sword. I don’t want to make it go away. I just want to assure you that you are held in this moment, and for every moment going forward. Always remember, misery loves company. We are all in this together. #teampain