Over the past year, I felt this weird unease about the way my life was going: it seemed, just a little too much, like I was doing good. Like I was on top, like I was untouchable (or at least “less-touchable”). Like the only bad things that were happening to me were small-time, manageable bad things. Life was just… good! And yet something inside me told me that it was not healthy to always feel this way – but no part of me knew exactly how to remedy this situation. Besides… when things are good, why look for reasons to complain? Just enjoy life when it’s good to you!
Well, I recently got reset, in a major way. I invested a lot of my time and energy into a relationship that just wasn’t ready to receive it. And I didn’t even realize how far I was diving in… and it hit me like a huge thump in the stomach.
For a few days, I was not myself. I could not sleep well, I wasn’t able to eat much, and I became irritable and often angry – angry because I couldn’t cry. I was hurt. Still am feeling some of that hurt. Hurt because of all the confusion – this was not some straightforward betrayal or anything that had some clear response. It was a situation that both grabbed at me and pushed me away all at once. It was a cloud of uncertainty that left nothing for me to grab hold of. And I was so unprepared for this kind of hurt that it overwhelmed me too much to even be able to cry. For a couple of days the tears refused to come, even when I wanted them to.
Now I am emerging from this period of heartbreak, and slowly but steadily healing. I finally was able to break through and cry for a while with the help and guidance of friends. And that turned things around. And I’ve learned a good, positive lesson from this experience.
Few people actually try to suffer adversity for adversity’s sake. There are some out there who do difficult things, generally with a thinking that at the end of the road, there is a reward. This is often true, and often a worthy goal. HOWEVER – there is no match for those kinds of adversity that we don’t ask for. And there is no conscious way to prepare for such things. They happen to us no matter what, and all we can do is suffer through them and let them teach us.
We’re all going to die at some point. Friends and loved ones will be snatched from us. Things we love will disappear and cease to exist. And we’re not always going to see it coming. How can you prepare for the unexpected? You can’t. You can only try to familiarize yourself, after the fact, with the feeling of having control utterly ripped from your grasp – and hopefully, through becoming familiar with it, you can learn to cope better with it the next time it happens.
The poet Rumi speaks of these “unwanted guests” in the poem “The Guest House“:
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
The friend of mine who introduced me to this poem accompanied it with the counsel to “approach spontaneous events, good or bad, as though you had asked for them.” Hopefully, on the bright side of things, this is easier to do. In other places on this blog, I have spoken about appreciating the good things.
When we really hunger for such wisdom, however, is not when we’re content, but rather when we are at a loss and need to cope. And loss that had no precedent, left no expectation that it would hit you, is the worst. But even if you are able to get into such a mode of thinking – ready for the loss that may come – the ironic part is, of course, that you must have absolutely no choice in how such loss plays out in order for the experience to truly be completely unexpected. You can’t choose, at all, how or when such things happen. You can only choose to learn from them when they do.
I can only thank the person who broke my heart, because her agency proved to be something I needed. It was even better, in fact, that I was forced to search on my own for the clarity I would need in order to recover. And in that search, and when I found that clarity, I found something else: she did not break my heart alone; I, in fact, was most responsible for breaking it. My inner desire to break with the inertia of a life that felt too easy throughout last year gradually led me a bit far off-center. Sure, I have wanted a few things to change, but truly, not in the way they have been changing – I have managed better patience than that in the past. I look back at the things I’ve let myself do, and notice some corrections that need to be made!
This is not to say that I was wrong for letting myself go a bit, either. It’s all part of life. Who is to say, when you gradually change over a period of time, that you aren’t making changes for the better? Who is to say that your preferences and desires aren’t actually shifting anyway, and that letting your habits change only lets you accurately reflect such shifts? There’s no way to figure all this out right away in the moment. I had to go through it to learn.
For now, I am taking comfort in people and things that are familiar to me and remind me of who I am. But the time will inevitably come, sometime in the future, when I will take such risks once again – if they are not thrown at me first somehow. And the wisdom I am gaining from the pain this time around will help me next time. And, as much as possible, I will remember to kiss the foreheads of the future guests that show up at my door, in addition to any of the past guests that may return. All the while learning better how to accommodate them all.