For many years I suffered from an extreme behavior; that of beating myself up for things that I didn’t do or did do.
I never needed anyone to hold me up to any accountability or standards. I did that on my own and to such a high level that it was obvious that I had set myself up for failure.
At a certain point, things got so bad that I even imagined taking my own head and hitting it against a wall. My mind wanted me to pay for being stupid or for not being perfect.
It was then that I realized that the compassion I offered to others when they were less than perfect, I should also give myself before I crushed under the weight of my intolerance.
Yesterday, I got the news that my mother’s childhood and best friend has passed away. While it was not a surprise – she was very sick – it got me thinking about end of relationships, accomplishments, life.
I’m not being morbid, but for a moment I put myself in my mother’s shoes: losing someone who had shared most of her life’s journey with her.
Our lives are built on winning and losing cycles. It is unavoidable and out of our personal control. But the control we do have is how we manage the waves. We must learn, accept and embrace all within a structure of pragmatism.
Steve Jobs, in his now famous Stanford commencement, said when he was seventeen he read the following quote: If you live your life each day as if it was your last, one day you’ll be right. That quote he said changed his life.
Remembering we never know from moment to moment how life is going to develop is exhilarating while also serving as a compass for our decisions. We can ask ourselves: If I were to not see this person again would I want our relationship to have ended like this? Would I want the last thing we said to each other what has just been said?
These are questions that come up when we ask ourselves; is there something in my life now that I would not want to be if I was to end today?
I write a lot about embracing challenges and pain. I think this concept became really clear to me after my husband passed away and I was left with the devastation of losing a two and a half year struggle to keep him alive. The first question that popped into my heart was: “What do I do now?” The second was: “There has to be something to be gained out of all this pain otherwise it is just too brutal.” And so I embarked in trying to figure out what good could I find in my loss.
What I found was through embracing my loss, I found me. And having found me has transformed my life. Now how does one embrace their pain? By not shying away from it. By not side-stepping. By having the courage to look the loss in the face and with humility know it is a life experience.
Life is about gaining wisdom through experiences without any quality being attached to it. Experience doesn’t care if it feels go or not. It only cares about opening doors to wisdom. Understanding this concept is what gives pain meaning.
Now I don’t look for difficult experiences in order to grow. I’m not a masochist. But when difficult moments present themselves to me, I accept them and remind myself it is part of life and part of my personal journey. We must all learn to love, to lose, to laugh and to hurt.
Below is an interesting post I found on the Huffington Post on the same subject.
Good Things Can Grow In The Dark
By Dennis Merritt Jones
“All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous, unpremeditated act without benefit of experience.”
~ Henry Miller
As I opened the door and stepped into the darkness of my kitchen pantry to grab my box of Cheerios this morning, I looked down and noticed a bag of potatoes, which had been sitting on the floor for a few weeks. Upon closer examination, I could see that most of the potatoes had begun to push out little sprouts...Continued
“Life is not lost by dying; life is lost minute by minute, day by dragging day, in all the thousand small uncaring ways.” – Stephen Vincent Benet
I had a conversation with a friend a few days ago, about turning pain into self-knowledge. My friend was having trouble understanding how hurting could have any positive aspect such as wisdom. I told her by embracing with awareness that which is painful we allow suffering to have a transformational quality.
Recently, my father came very close to dying. As I now am a widow, the possibility of losing my father took on an added layer to my possible loss. But, instead of dulling my pain, every night after making sure my mom was okay, I would spend time with myself and let the full impact of what was happening take hold of me. It was not easy to feel the full force of loss one more time. But, by doing so I was able to understand that loss is a part of life as much as happiness is. I was reminded in a deep level that in the human journey, experiences – good or bad – is what creates wisdom and compassion in every one of us. There is great humility in acceptance, and when we do so, we transform.
Much has happened lately that has kept me away from writing my blogs. A couple of weeks ago my 86 year old dad contracted a very serious pneumonia. It was touch and go there for a while. It was stressful, painful and transformative.
First, let me just say that as of a couple of days ago, he is stable. Yesterday he sat up for the first time in three weeks and today he has made his first sounds.
While at his age, contemplating the end of a relationship is not out of the ordinary, when the situation does present itself it brings about much fear, acceptance and contemplation.
What has interested me about the post below is a clever observation by Dr. Cara Barker. The doctor, a Jungian analyst, while discussing what a life well lived means asks: “What brings laughter, a smile, or any kind of emotional reaction at a memorial? Is it when a list of accomplishments is read or is it when we recall funny or loving anecdotes about the person who has passed on?”
I don’t think Dr. Barker or I for that matter, are trying to be morbid. It’s just an astute observation about – after all is said and done – what really mattered.
Grief has been very much on my mind lately. I’m not doom and gloom, but I believe I’m coming full circle in understanding the structure of grief, and most importantly how grief can be turned into healing.
As we go through life we lose friends, relatives, parents, looks, youth, wealth, health, jobs, reputation, possibilities, opportunities, love and at the end of it all, life itself. Wanting or not, loss is part of the human experience. Denying it leaves us in limbo.
Great grief takes away the ground from under our feet. We falter and look for support. It hurts and often feels like it’s going to swallow us whole. It also announces a period of mourning, introspection and the possibility of growth.
Today, I was talking to a friend on the phone who used to be a high fashion model. My friend walked the runways for such designers as Valentino, Christian Dior, and Montana. One day while paragliding he became trapped in electrical wires and ended up losing a leg. His life radically changed. He went from making a living from being extremely in shape and good looking to being a man stared at for having a disability. But my friend is a survivor. He went back to paragliding and actually added a few more sports. Today he is an extreme sports athlete.
I believe one the hardest feelings we deal with when grief strikes, is the overwhelming sensation of loss. Loss means we had something which we no longer have. Initially, there is nothing positive about it. But, if we are to heal and to change as human beings we must embrace the loss and transform it.
I remember when my husband passed away how I kept saying to myself and others; “There has to be something positive out of this incredible pain. If not, it is complete devastation and I may not survive.” I soon found what was positive for me out of all that I had lost; it was a deeper understanding of love, life, compassion and empathy. As well as becoming more comfortable in my own skin.
Less than I year before from my late husband’ passing, I started the Love Project Inc., a book of our history together and I also added a number of social causes to my agenda.
When we hurt we can either stay in pain and anger or we can turn our scar into a new way of being.
by Deborah Calla
I was married at age 20 to a man who was 11 years my senior. When I married the man, I was a recent Brazilian arrival doing a lot of drugs and hanging out with all the wrong people. I thought getting married would settle me down and straighten me out, but instead it marked the beginning of the worst period of my life. The man was intelligent and creative, but he was also possessive, manipulative and had an ego that didn’t allow any other human to occupy the same space as his. Within the first year the intelligent man showed himself as delusional and abusive…Continued