Everything doesn't always happen for a reason. If that were true, that would mean there would be a reason for cancer, loss, suffering, addiction, bigotry, oppression, unnecessary pain.
If we believe that there is a reason for every bad thing that ever happened, that there is a lesson or some cosmic reason behind it, that would also mean believing we live in a cruel universe that wishes to teach us lessons through pain. I don't think that's true at all.
This is what I want to believe instead: sometimes, shit happens. And that isn't always related to learning lessons, or seeing the good in it, it just is what it is, and depending on circumstance, it mostly just sucks.
Sometimes, we can have the best of intentions by trying to look at 'the bright side of things' or trying to help somebody who's going through a hard time and say something like 'everything happens for reason', hoping we or they would feel better. The truth is, that can sometimes cause more harm than help.
By jumping over the difficult emotions and trying to find the bright side of things without going through the pain first, we not only invalidate our feelings or the feelings of others, but we actually make the pain worse. A good friend told me once you can postpone all you want, but you can't avoid forever. Eventually you will have to feel what you're going through. What's worse, stuffing down feelings can be incredibly toxic and harmful. Anyone who has tried it can likely attest to that -me included.
The reason I wanted to write about this, is because I know I talk a lot about looking at the positive, and being grateful. But I also talk about feeling feelings, and that's just as important. A good friend of mine is going through a hard time right now, and so are others that I love, including my family. In times like these, I want to be reminded of how important it is to go through what we're experiencing being present, and honouring our feelings of frustration, pain, uncertainty, sadness, stress, anger, loss.
I think the big lesson in this for me is not to hold on to the idea that there's a magical plan out there where somehow, something amazing will happen in our lives after the hardship is over. Unfortunately, life just doesn't work that way.
What I want to believe is that we don't need to be defined by our circumstance. We can try to walk through whatever life throws our way, to the best of our ability* (*translation for overachievers: IMPERFECTLY!) with dignity, grace, vulnerability and courage. And perhaps, just perhaps, we can come out of it on the other side stronger, and better equipped to connect with others. Because we would have been changed by our experience, and that will make us more compassionate towards those around us who are also suffering.
The truth is, I really don't know if 'everything happens for a reason' or not. I don't think anyone really does. But if we have the same amount of evidence for both sides, I choose to believe in the path that's kinder, and where there's more healing and growth.
One final thought: many, many years ago, one of my sisters was going through a hard time. At least as hard as things could be for your average tween. Growing up in a household of therapists and teachers, her older and well intentioned sisters were trying to help her the best way we knew at the time: reminding her to look on the bright side of things, to think positive. Her reaction was priceless. She ran into her room and before she slammed the door shut, she shouted 'I just want to be negative for 5 freakin' minutes!!!'
It's probably one of the favourite and most helpful lessons we've ever had as a family.
So, if you are having a hard time at the moment, know you are not alone. Take as much time as you need to go through it. Ask for help. Know that it will pass. It may not be over on our own timeline (sadly) but the good news is, nothing lasts forever. We can feel the pain without having to be consumed by it. And maybe nothing magical will happen after the hurt is over. Either way, we will have changed. And if we choose to, we will have grown. That becomes inevitable when we are being present for this amazing -and sometimes challenging- thing that's called life!
Hugs to you all,