Honor how you feel
In more than one conversation recently, a friend has revealed to me to me that they are in pain. That there is a sadness or an irritability or an exhaustion or a restless boredom that is weighing on them. These friends were not bitching about the day to day, they were sharing from the heart.
In each case the conversation suddenly tacked in the direction of guilt. The words were almost exactly the same, "I know I am so lucky. I have everything I could possibly need. So I should stop complaining."
I did my best in the moment. But with time to sit and think, I felt a deeper response arising, one I wanted to share.
Thank you for sharing your suffering with me, for letting me see the real you. In my presence, this is never, ever complaining...this is healing, mine and yours. I am humbled by the gift of your revelation and I promise to hold your precious story with as careful attending as I am able.
When you say, "I know I am so lucky. I have everything I could possibly need. So I should stop complaining," I feel you cutting yourself off. It's quick, like the slap shut of a spring-loaded screen door; you know, the kind that bites you in the ankle on your way inside.
The words you use make it sound like guilt, but I don't think it is guilt. Guilt is tender and soft, like a bruise that comes from feeling the pain someone else is feeling. Guilt emerges from connection and leads to connection.
What I see transpiring is different. It is a sudden severing of connection. It is a thought pattern that redirects your attention away from your authentic self toward the superficiality of your circumstances. It feels brittle and small compared to who I know you to be, diminishing whatever it is that is asking to come to the surface. This does not mean that the world's problems are not real. They are. But diminishing the real challenges of our own lives gets in the way of our intention to be of service.
So please, the next time the screen door of this false guilt is about to snap shut on your heels, just pay attention. Don't even try to stop it. Just watch how quickly it cuts you off and see if you can't feel the feeling that happens right before the slap. Is it shame? Is it fear? I'd really like to know, we can hold that together and follow where the trail leads.
I beg you. Honor what is arriving at the doorstep. Open the door and let it in. Treat it as you would a weary traveler who has been unwelcome at many stops, and let your home be a refuge. Make up the bed, cut flowers, and prepare a warm meal.
This is the kindness it will take.
Our lives are an awesome responsibility, but we will never be able to live up to our task if we cut ourselves off from our internal energy as it presents itself. A sadness may be a private gift, lonely for connection, an irritability--an injustice in need of correction, restlessness--maybe a fear. I don't know what these emotions may be beaconing for you, but I know that somewhere inside you, you do.
And from my own experience I know, there is something about what is arising that makes you uncomfortable, that scares you, that will require you to be brave. I know this because I feel scared too.
That is why kindness is our only answer. In our current circumstances, only kindness will enable us to unleash our full vitality, our full capacity for love, warmth, connection and creativity. Only kindness will give us the courage to become whatever it is we were uniquely designed to be. This is no small task, and yet possibly the one task that will enable us to be of authentic service to the world.
So please friend, be kind to yourself. Honor your feelings, and let's see where the trail leads. I don't know where we'll end up, but the one thing I can promise you is that love never fails.