Friday, May 14, 2010
In my morning mental meanderings today, something brought to mind a thing that often happens when someone is going through a difficult time. At least one person will say something like, "Well, think of all the people living in war-torn countries or so-and-so who just lost his whole family, or...," etc. etc. You've probably heard it. Maybe you've said it yourself.
People who say such things intend to help. They think that by getting your mind off your troubles, you'll feel better. They think that if you're reminded of how much worse life can be, your troubles won't seem so bad. Unfortunately, I don't think that's how it works. Statements like these may distract the afflicted person for the moment, but that's not necessarily a helpful part of healing or of dealing with what's going on. In addition, these statements encourage everyone to ignore difficult feelings like sadness, grief, anger and so on. As I've written before, ignoring hard feelings doesn't make them go away; it just makes them go underground. Later, they may very well emerge as headaches, depression, colds, back troubles, cancer, rage, self-pity, and many other peace-blocking symptoms.
So this morning, it occurred to me that one benefit might be found in the statement, "It could be worse. Look at so-and-so's problems." That benefit could be to recognize that in this physical life on this earth, troubles are not uncommon. They happen every day, and they happen to regular people, people just like you and me. So since we're all equally human, there's no reason to expect total lifelong freedom from difficult times. I suppose there might be people who never face calamity and loss, but I don't know too many, if any.
The other possibly helpful part of such statements is to remember that there's no quota on loss and pain. I don't know why, exactly (though I have some theories), but I do believe that's the case. I have certainly, definitely felt like I've had my share, but that doesn't seem to be how it works. When I feel like I'm getting more than my share, I remind myself there's no such thing as "shares." And this is not a depressing thought. I refuse to think and live like a victim anymore. I choose instead to be honest about my hard times and how they affect me. I choose instead to accept that other people will make choices that sadden me or cause me pain...and that I can choose how to deal with that. There is nothing about my "me-ness" that exempts me from experiencing the full range of being human.
Are pain and loss excruciating at times? Yes. Do I wish they'd go away? Yes. Do I sometimes feel like I can't take anymore? I sure do. At those times, I rely on a loved one or my spiritual source to get me through. Some days I can only manage to put one foot in front of the other until it's time to go to bed. I sometimes decide to temporarily ignore my rotten feelings and just keep busy...but I make sure that as soon as I can, I unbusy myself and deal with my feelings.
I do not advocate comparing ourselves and our troubles to someone who is "worse off." However, if you hear such words, you can use them to remember that all humans are human and that we always have choices about how to deal with our humanity.