Why is pain something we bear alone?
Why are we made to stuff it inside, to swallow the emotion and blink away the tears?
What makes the system work this way? Suffer in silence and celebrate on stage seems to be our world view.
The range of emotion we are meant to feel as humans, the emotion as information, as energy in motion, is huge. We are meant to suffer and rejoice, feel sorrow, rage, and pain, as well as joy, elation, and pleasure. We are meant to feel all the shades of gray in between.
Naturally, we want to feel good most of the time, and, naturally, we are more drawn to speak up when we are in a state of contentment and the “higher” vibes. But I wish we were equally as comfortable showing our sorrows and painful, wounded parts, too. I wish it felt safe to do so.
When we see friends and they ask how we are, I would love to live in a world where people honestly tell each other how they are. Today, I walked into a coffee shop and when asked how I was, I replied, “I’m okay.” To which my friend replied, “Just okay? It’s a beautiful day to be good!”
Though I appreciate people cheering one another up, I also wished in that moment his would have been a reply of concern, a touch on my arm, a look into my eyes that would have revealed my challenging day, and I wished it would’ve been an opportunity to feel human, to let the storm be seen and valued as much as the cheery blueness of the sky.
When society meets us this way, when even those we love the most do, we get a subtle message that says, “Ride out your own storm, and do it quietly so it doesn’t rub off. Don’t dump your waste here. Maybe find a private space for it. I don’t think I can help.”
But what I really think we need is to create a world full of a message that mostly says, “Please feel safe to express your human experience right now. I am able to hear you and hold space so you don’t have to feel it alone. I, too, am human and have felt this, and, most importantly, I know, standing outside of your storm, that you are able to endure it while it’s here, and I swear to you, it will pass. It will not always feel this intense, my friend.”
I recently read the book, How Full is Your Bucket For Kids, by Mary Reckmeyer and Tom Rath, to my mindfulness students. We discussed the idea of everyone having an invisible bucket they carry around, representing how they feel inside.
How wonderful it would be to know a little more about those around us, the way they feel, the suffering they may be experiencing, the joys lighting them up. It would be so much easier to know how to love and care for one another if we had that information.
Only our brave and truthful words will report the storm and help us show how full the bucket is. We must also be willing to ask after others’ hearts, then listen to the response. This might reveal what others might not willingly offer.
Ultimately, holding space, like offering physical shelter, is the way to support one another through our storms.