When I was younger, I remember hearing from people who were so happy and optimistic. They seemed to deal with difficult things with grace and gratitude. And I wanted to be like them.
I thought that if I was good enough, I would be able to go through life without deep pain and struggle. When hard times came, if I had enough faith and trust in God, then it wouldn’t hurt. I could meet it with optimism and faith and joy.
That was a lie I told myself. I didn’t want to feel pain. I was running away from pain, thinking that I wanted a perfect and happy life where I had this amazing attitude all the time. I thought religion meant that I wouldn’t have to feel pain. I thought being good enough meant that I had a good attitude at all times.
And now I have felt deep pain that has teared me apart and put me back together. I have not had any deep tragedy in my life. But I have had struggles that have driven me to despair. I have faced my own imperfections and saw that I would never be the ideal I had set for myself.
I sat with my pain today. I didn’t feel guilty. I didn’t try to make it go away. I didn’t feel a need to be productive and happy. I just let myself cry. It was a small thing: I missed my home that I can’t live in.
And I didn’t tell myself I needed to have this amazing attitude. I didn’t need to feel happy and put this pressure on myself to be and do everything right. I didn’t need to fix the problem either.
I have had a hard time sharing pain with others because I’ve always ran away from it in my own life. But when I prayed today, it wasn’t with this hope that things would work out. Because that isn’t true when you are in pain: things won’t work out because they hurt right then and that pain is real. And it’s okay to not feel hopeful and optimistic. It’s okay to cry.
I know the moment will pass and I do know that hope is around the corner, but I am also finally okay with the fact that life will hurt. My hope is no longer in the deliverance from pain. I prayed that I could continue in the life I have, knowing that it will continue to hurt for a while. I’m not desperately looking for the way out.
The biggest comfort comes in knowing I can move forward with the pain, knowing that my heart is big enough to contain it.
Because in the pain, there is also joy. Almost all of our pain comes because we had happiness. We felt loved. We loved others. Joy and sorrow often come together: we love knowing that we will someday say goodbye. We work knowing that it will someday be torn down and forgotten. We live knowing we will die. We build a home knowing we will leave.
There is sorrow because there is joy and joy because there is sorrow. And I want the joy. Which means that I must accept the sorrow that goes with it.
If hard things happen to me, I don’t have to tell myself that things will work out. I don’t need to skip over the pain and fight it with optimism and hope. I don’t need to say everything is fine and put a brave face on.
I will let myself cry. I will let myself be imperfect. I will let myself sorrow and know that things can be hard and overwhelming without recompense. And I will not apologize to others for being sad, excusing myself as if sadness was some sort of flaw that should be hidden away. I will have the integrity to not be ashamed of my struggle.
(Or I will feel guilty and hide and make mistakes and that’s okay too because I’m still learning.)
I am finally not hiding from what life is, though the process has been slow and continues.
But in the end, I am more grateful for the hard times than the easy times. I have found myself more in failure than in success. I feel so much less ashamed of myself in realizing my imperfections.
Life is messy and chaotic and beautiful because of it.