‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops – at all.
– Emily Dickinson No. 254 (c. 1861)
When all is lost what do you hold on to? When unexpected tragedy strikes your world what keeps you going?
All of us will experience the loss of a loved one at some point in our lives. Most of us will experience the painful heartbreak of the end of an intimate relationship. Many of us will experience betrayal by a friend. Some of us will experience debilitating injuries and illness. All of us will experience the emotional pain caused by the seemingly uncaring actions of others.
Loss and tragedy can lead us down a dark path. Cut loose from the ties that bind us to our ‘safe’ and comfortable existence we can fall into the emotional pool and be tossed around by the current like a swimmer caught in a rip, desperately treading water just to keep our heads above the surface, gasping for breath at every opportunity.
The current can be strong; the fleeting touch of the ground beneath all so brief before the current picks us up and sucks us out to sea. Panic rears its ugly head. Fear sets in. Breathing becomes more of a struggle. Drowning seems inevitable.
What do you hold on to?
Logic makes no sense.
“It’s so unfair!”, part of you screams. “Why me?”
The mind replays the past, “If only I’d… If only they’d…” The past churns violently through the mind – every detail examined, every incident reassessed, every decision remade. Regret bites hard. Sleep becomes a fleeting and ever-so-brief release from the reality that now confronts.
Emotions threaten to overwhelm. “Oh poor me”
Many will listen and give pity. Escapism will beckon – alcohol, drugs, sex, irrational, self-harming behaviour will tempt – give up don’t fight it. “It’s so unfair anyway”, will be the cry.
Swirling around in the current, what will you hold on to? That there is karmic justice in the world? That good wins in the end? That there is some meaning to life?
Deep in the shit, logic will not help you.
Idiotically enough, it will be faith that provides the answer.
We like to think that we are smart – that the mind, and the higher order reasoning that it is capable of, will let us work it all out; that if we can just get all the facts – the evidence – and think about it some more, then we will be able to find a way out – find a solution. But there is no solution to some things. There is finality in loss, tragedy and death that makes no sense and simply can’t be fixed.
On being confronted by the sudden loss of her mother, a beautiful friend wrote, “We can survive the most horrendous of experiences. More than that, we are given the opportunity to grow strong from these experiences. It’s almost as though our capacity to open that which is unimaginably painful and difficult is the key to unlocking the doors to a world that is beautiful…”
Ripped apart by grief she chose to open her heart and there found an unexpected gift. Logic will not lead you there; only the profound belief that there is some meaning in life and the willingness to open your heart and feel.
“Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.”[Rabindranath Tagore]
Faith is the belief in something where there is no evidence, but faith is nothing if it is not tested. It’s easy to say you believe when things are easy – it’s much harder to act when the going gets tough.
“When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.”[Alexander Graham Bell]
So – what do you believe? What do you hold on to when things get tough? What does this mean in practice? And how will you exercise your will to translate your faith into reality and act?
Strengthen the will – know that panic will lead you to catastrophisation – a rolling explosion of fear that blows away all sense of stability and leads you to believe that all is lost. Remember instead that everything is temporary – nothing exists that does not change – nothing.
Bring the horizon closer. Instead of worrying about the rest of your life, next year, next month, next week, tomorrow, tonight – just come back to NOW.
NOW there are blessings – the sun shines, the birds sing – here is the gift.
NOW strengthen the will – consciously choose to DO something, anything that is aligned to what you want and what you believe in. Choose to move the stagnant energy that is despair. Choose to walk, sit in the sun, smile at people, draw your attention to what is good and say thanks.
If there is meaning in life then act like there is.
Bit by bit by bit, little things accumulate.
Let go of trying to touch the bottom. Stop panicking. Start breathing. Feel the current. Remember what you want. Stop fighting against the flow. Start kicking. Save yourself.
Back to my friend, “Out of the pain and suffering that is an integral part of living, we can discover the extraordinary love, light and compassion that resides in all our hearts…”.
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