When Life Hurts

Life is full of various ups and downs. The waves of our own emotions invariably present their crests and troughs in various forms. Suffering is guaranteed to all in the mourning of our lows and the craving of our highs… Or, when highs are in short-supply, in craving the absence of life’s worse pains.

I have yet to taste the bitterness of life’s greatest sufferings, but I’m beginning to feel a greater depth of pain. These pains feel much more intimate and much less negotiable. There’s always the choice to steer away from the troubles of life, but that’s a short-term solution, if that.

If one is blessed to be born into this world, the burden of death and suffering is a nonnegotiable requisite – a sine qua non (“without which not”). Without suffering, life is impossible. Life consists of our journey to death. In On the Shortness of Life, Seneca wrote, “It takes the whole of life to learn how to live, and… it takes the whole of a life to learn how to die.” Starts and endings, pleasures and pains… life and death.

It seems, as we grow older, we get to experience these things more deeply. Perhaps, it’s the accumulation of memory in the mind? The gradual increasing information overwhelms our ability to process all that life exposes us to. We may struggle to choose how to cope with life’s new details, to remember how we coped with life in the past, or to even remember life’s old details. We are simultaneously overwhelmed by grief and nostalgia. We recede into apathy, retreat into despair, or resort to anger and denial.

But, there is another way to deal with the deepening waves of life. It has been demonstrated to us by the likes of Frankl and Kalanithi – King and Mandela. When suffering comes for you, sharpen your mind and soften your heart.

There is no solution to some forms of pain and suffering, but there is an honorable way to travel our personal paths to death. That road is paved with striving characterized by the strength to love, sincere kindness, and an attitude of meekness. This road demands courageous work and gentle wisdom from its travelers.

Love is a difficult thing. It will deepen your sufferings and elevate your joys. Love will amplify your life.

Don’t silence the common sensations of love. Invest in and preserve the health of your relationships with others, especially those characterized by reciprocal altruism and mutual encouragement. Love those who love you best and who feel the most loved by you. As far as it depends on you, forgive and ask for forgiveness. Love your “enemies” without surrendering to them.

When life hurts, remember that behavior is about balance and life is about relationships. Don’t drown swimming against the tide. Don’t lose your way trying to avoid bad weather. Take measure of these storms, for they will be the measure of you.

Sail on with a shrewd attitude, a soft heart, and all the savvy you can muster. Ride the waves of life with tenacious joy and peaceful purpose. Hold strong to your principles while curiously exploring the unknowns. Allow kindness and care to flow freely through you to others then back to you. Don’t numb your pain before listening to what it is trying to tell you. Read the skies for what the are, heeding omens and savoring beauty. Smile, laugh, mourn, hope, trust, and learn.

Enjoy your work, prioritize relationships, and pay attention. Allow yourself to openly respond to life’s mysterious seas. These moments are what makes a life. Be joyfully and courageously present in them. When life hurts, you don’t have to fix it or even understand it, to find resonance among the waves.

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