Few things are worse than feeling powerless. Sometimes we’re betrayed by those with whom we were once close. Sometimes our own bodies betray us. Sometimes we fail to act on our own behalf. Whatever the cause, when we feel we cannot have an impact on the world around us, or that we can’t save those we love from pain and anguish related to our own situation, it’s just crushing.
The truth is, we are not in control of anything except how we respond to what we’re given. We’re certainly not in control of circumstances. And you may have noticed you can’t control what other people will do or say or want or need, nor is that ever your job. Sometimes the repercussions are devastating, and yet, we always have some power. If you’re at the mercy of someone else, whether that someone be an ex, a family member, a judge, or your own internal demon, the key is always compassion for yourself. This human experience is incredible, and wildly interesting, but I don’t believe anyone would argue that it’s an easy gig.
We arrive here, and our parents have whatever tools thy have to love us and nurture us. We arrive here, and some of us have a cozy and safe roof over our heads, and others of us never feel safe. So right off the bat, it’s not a level playing field. Then, we have unknown expiration dates. It’s not like you can count on living to one hundred. It’s not like you can take tomorrow for granted (although we do it all the time). And every single person you know and love is in the same boat. So if you want to deny your vulnerability, have at it, but it’s still a reality.
Here are other things—so many people struggle to be happy in the face of all this. Most people take a good twenty to thirty years just to have a sense of what they might most like to do with their time. The majority of people in our culture run down paths that are supposed to lead to happiness, but don’t. As a society, we’re taught the mantra of “survival of the fittest” at an early age, and we grow up thinking we’re supposed to compete with each other, which doesn’t tend to engender happiness for other people’s good fortunes. So we breed an environment of envy and despair. Also, we do a woefully inadequate job of teaching what it means to love ourselves, and others. We have crazy notions about love that lead to disappointment and ridiculous expectations.
My point is, it’s very easy to find yourself in a mess. Human beings are complex, and we each have an interior world that we choose to share or hide to varying degrees. The more you hide from yourself and others, the less likely it is that your path will be clear. Sometimes two unhealed people come together, and there’s so much happening under the surface, it’s only a matter of time before things start exploding or imploding. Unfortunately, this is how some of us learn. This is how we begin to understand what love is, and what it is not. The webs we weave can be very painful to unravel, but sometimes that’s the only chance for peace. Thread by thread, we have to dismantle the thing, and start to build something new.
Often, our hearts break as we move through an experience like this. And if you’re in the thick of it, try to remind yourself of two things—one, it’s not forever, and two, you get to decide how you’re going to respond to reality as it is. You can’t manage anyone else’s journey, but you can keep your side of the street clean. And when you’re starting to head off down a new path, feeling like you’re moving with integrity is very strengthening. You don’t have to get down in the mud with anyone else. And you don’t have to condemn people if that’s where they are. If you have it in you, you can try to find compassion for people when they lash out, because a person doing that is in pain. That doesn’t excuse cruelty, manipulation or abuse, but it might help you not to take it as personally. What another person does or says is a reflection of where they are at this point in time, and not of anything lacking in you. You have the power to be kind to yourself if the picture you had in your head is now in pieces around your feet. You have the power to move through this heat with some grace and strength. You have the power to breathe deeply. You have the power to remind yourself that no feeling is final. You have the power to create a loving and nurturing environment for yourself, and anyone close to you, to blossom within. No one can take that power away from you, you just have to own it. And do your best to trust that if you do your part, the rest will be okay. That’s all you can do, anyway. Sending you love, as always, Ally Hamilton