It’s Not “All Good”

changingseasonsYou do not have to be grateful for every experience you’ve ever had in your life. I almost feel the need to write that again. I think there’s enormous confusion around this topic, at least in the “spiritual community”, and I think it’s important to shine some light on it. You can, in retrospect, appreciate how certain tragedies may have made you a more compassionate and insightful person. You might acknowledge that you would not be the you that you are, had you not endured certain piercing heartbreaks. Maybe you’ve even taken this knowledge and used it to help people going through the same kind of loss, and perhaps you can feel grateful that something of value has risen out of the ashes of your grief. That’s all beautiful, but you do not have to look back on your life, on everything that may or may not have happened to you, and feel grateful for it all.

You may think I’m splitting hairs, or that this is just semantics, but I assure you that’s not it. I watched a close family member lose his six year old son to brain cancer, and I can tell you, no one in my family is grateful for having gone through that, least of all his parents. Having said that, his mother helps other families facing loss like that. So is that gorgeous of her? Yes. Can she appreciate that she would not be able to comfort people going through something that horrendous in the same way had she not gone through it herself? Of course. But would she gladly give back that experience and be less insightful in that area? Yes. One hundred percent, yes.

I get really fired up when I see these quotes, or hear people spouting platitudes about everything being wonderful and positive. It’s so alienating for people who are in pain, who are grieving or suffering, to also feel they’re supposed to somehow trust that it’s “happening for a reason”, or to have faith that “someday it will all make sense to them.” Some things will never make sense. Some things fall so far outside of anything we could call sense, it’s asinine to try to put them in the same sentence.

I recognize we all want to make order out of chaos, create stability in a vulnerable world. I know we’d love to feel there’s some quid pro quo, and that it’s all cause and effect. “If I’m a good person, then nothing bad will happen to me, or to those I love,” but it doesn’t work that way. Knifing things happen to incredibly kind people sometimes. Perhaps you believe there’s a larger picture, and that it all works out in the end. Maybe you’re right, and maybe you’re wrong. We could shout our opinions from the mountaintops all day long, but ultimately we all have to figure out what makes sense to us. We all have to grapple with these questions and piece together answers we can sleep with at night. When we tell a grieving person their tragedy has befallen them for a reason, even if we believe that and we mean well, we are showing an enormous lack of understanding and compassion, and there’s nothing spiritual about that.

There’s the “normal” amount of suffering, and then there’s the kind that brings you to your knees with your mouth full of why, the pain so great it takes up all the space in your lungs, the breaking of your heart something you can feel in real-time. Then there’s the way you respond to what you’ve been given, and that’s pretty much all you can control. How do I work with my history, my pain, my fears, my tendencies, my gifts, my strengths, my joy? How do I lean into all of it, and do my life in a way that feels good and right to me? How do I learn and grow and use what I know to have a positive impact on the world around me? What within me still needs my kind attention? Where do I have room to heal more, to open more? If you force yourself to feel grateful for everything, or you feel disappointed in yourself because you can’t, you’re simply getting in your own way.

Examine your “shoulds”, as in, “I should be able to handle this.” Says who? How old is that should? Is it even yours, or is it something that was instilled in you, that you’ve internalized? You feel how you feel. You are who you are. Obviously, we want to focus our minds on all the things we do have, like our health, and the people in our lives who love us, and whom we love beyond measure. We want to feel grateful for the sound of laughter spilling from our children, our partners, our best friends, and total strangers. We want to feel grateful for the sun on our faces, or the breeze across our skin, for kindnesses bestowed upon us by those we know so well, and those we don’t know at all. Gratitude is a beautiful state that makes us feel all the abundance around us and within us, but you can’t force it, and it isn’t even a sane response in many cases. Facing reality as it is, is my religion. Give me the truth, whatever it is. Let me know myself and the people in my life well, and deeply. That way I can love them for real. When I’m angry, let me examine what’s happening within me. When I’m joyful, let me spread that far and wide. Let me start and end and fill my days with all the reasons I have to say yes, and thank you. But when I’m suffering, grant me a spiritual practice that makes space for that, too. That way I can breathe.

Wishing that for you, and sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

~ Find my books here ~

9 thoughts on “It’s Not “All Good””

  1. Amen, sister!! Beautifully stated and well put. We all deserve to feel and experience our pain and suffering in the way that organically occurs within us, without shame and without worrying that we have failed in this proverbial “test” of our strength or sacrifice.
    Thank you for making that case!

  2. Hi Ally, I find your posts to be so meaningful to me, thank you. I have been an on again/off again yoga practitioner for about the last 25 years. I have recently moved to the country where there are no yoga classes so have been trying to find a yoga DVD that I like (in theory I know enough to make my own practice, but I really prefer the guidance of a teacher and practicing with others even if it is only a teacher on a DVD). Anyway, I can’t watch video online because of limited bandwidth issues (it would cost a fortune), thus I need a good yoga DVD. I would really appreciate hearing any recommendations you might have. Thank you so much for all that you are and all that you do, MaryJo Hutchinson

    1. Hey Mary Jo! I replied on Facebook as well, but I’d look at Tracey Rich and Ganga White from the White Lotus Foundation. I think their videos are beautiful, and they’re both phenomenal teachers. We will have a download option soon, so stay tuned 🙂

      1. Dear Ally
        Hopefully you have an option for who are in some countries with limitations. Waiting for a yoga class with you 😉 Love and hug, Maryam

  3. This is really well said and hits the point at this noment in my life!!! I am going to save it and read it to find some comfort from the hell I am experiencing now, when everybody says all those things and I get so MAD!!! Thank you!

  4. It was about time someone said it, and you are the best person to say it. I am sick and tired of the so-called spiritual bullshit out there saying:that we should be glad we are “learning a lesson”….etc. We all have a right to our feelings as you say, and we need to be in touch with our feelings…..

  5. Brava, Ally! I shudder when I hear these sorts things. While I always enjoy reading your posts, this one hit particularly close to home right now. Fresh into the grieving process after the death of my Father…I have run into more than a few of the (cringe worthy) platitudes. While I know I will eventually make sense of this loss, it ain’t (and probably never will be) all good. Be well.

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