We all have a story. A story where we experienced something painful, something difficult, something meaningful and learned a great lesson about ourselves and our place in the world. Usually those stories start off hard and sometimes devastating. Whether it was a loss of someone we loved, abuse, unkind words we owned about ourselves, dreams we believed could never be realized, or any situation that feels unbearably painful while in the middle of it. It feels awful, energy draining, and never ending. And then something incredible happens…sometimes slowly, sometimes right when we think it never will. Our wounds start to heal and the pain starts to dissipate. Our thinking becomes clearer and our vision more focused and we begin to see our pain for what it was, a lesson in life, living and love.
The lesson is different for everyone, as is the pain, but the end result is similar, a gift in the form of growth. It’s what we choose to do with the result that helps us define ourselves and learn. Survival, knowledge, power in knowing we can face challenges, even when we don’t want to. Learning to love ourselves, others and life, no matter what it brings us. We have all been challenged, every one of us, and will continue to be.
When I think of my own stories, and I have a few, I am thankful for all of them. Honestly, I am. If it weren’t for my stories, hardships, challenges, down times and can’t imagine peeling myself off the ground lows, I wouldn’t be who I am, and have the skills and knowledge to help others the way I’d like to. If I didn’t feel how hard life can be, how would I know the difference to appreciate its beauty and ease? It always seems to come full circle for me. And for that, I am grateful.
I often wonder what my children’s stories will be. What will they say about their childhood? What will they tell their therapist as adults, because we all assume our children will need one, right? Please say yes.
What pains will they have and losses will they incur? What experiences will hurt them the most? Where will I be when they are hurting? Will they tell me? How will I respond? I will want to support them, as they are my children, but will I want to shield them? Instinctually yes, I don’t want them to feel pain, but intellectually and spiritually, I know they need to. They will each have a story to tell, most likely many stories. And I want them to. I want them to grow strength from pain, knowledge through experience, and know what love is by feeling it. Love is a risk. A worthwhile risk. So is hope and faith. And how do you really know the value of love, hope and faith until you experience its absence?
When their heart is truly broken for the first time, when they are penalized for making a bad decision, when they realize that people can be incredibly heartless and condescending, when they acknowledge injustice and inequality in their world, I will be there. I can not fix or change those lessons, but I can teach them how to prevail in the face of sorrow and anger and model what it looks like to feel pain, but release bitterness.
The best part of stories is that the structure is consistent. There’s always a beginning, a middle and an end. We may not be able to choose the introduction and the climax, but the ending is all ours. As the Buddhists say, pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. When it comes to my children’s stories, my goal is to let them write their own story, but to help them edit it along the way and teach them a happy ending is always an option. Our script is our own and the words that we choose will determine just how well our story is lived and how prepared we are for the next class.