You have given everything you’ve got and nothing makes sense anymore. The only certainty amidst a sea of confusion is the absolute hopelessness of your situation.
This you know. And you are frustrated, and this is unfair. Yes. It is very unfair.
Maybe you fell of your bike and fractured your hip. Your entire summer is gone, confined to the hospital bed. Maybe you walked into your mother making love to another man, a man who is hardly your father. That too, presents its own set of challenges. Or maybe you just woke up one day and realised, hey, this life isn’t for me. Or maybe you didn’t even have to wake up to realise it, you knew from the start that this life wasn’t for you. It was for someone else out there who is maybe three centimetres taller, who eats less everyday and does a different occupation. This life may be for anyone else, but it certainly isn’t for you.
You feel trapped, and you want so badly to escape. There’s really nothing left for you to wonder, to rationalise. You are sick of positivity, of people pretending to be strong around you when the truth is that they too look at you with that tinge of pity in their eyes. Poor one, they must be thinking. Wanted this life but got that instead. Be strong now, be strong.
But the biggest mistake is pretending to be strong when all your body shows and knows is weakness. It is a mistake to feel like you must be strong just because the world looks at your suffering and predicts frailty but hopes for strength. When the world makes such a prediction it is very natural to tense up and put up a facade of strength.
The key here is, don’t. At least not at first. It is okay to crouch in a corner and cry, find a friend and complain for the whole night. Let your weakness spread from within you, let it infect those around you with its anti-strength. Only then will your suffering gain legitimacy, and only then will you finally know what it means to confront your emotions, to get close and personal with hardship.
It’s too easy to see someone suffering and say “he/she did so well” or “it was courageous of them.” We forget that a lot of times courage is a choice, and not an obligation. Many people who suffer did so unwillingly, did so without knowing of the pain that lay ahead. We often elevate the status of the sufferer to the point where it’s almost wrong to show weakness, that crying out in pain and just hating life for a while seems like a burden to everyone around. But it isn’t. It is merely an instinctive human reaction to hurt.
Only through your own questioning and deliberate grilling of your emotions and of the situation does the potential to grow arise. What does this potential for growth mean? To me it means making a choice. Perhaps suffering wasn’t up to you. Perhaps suffering closed off all your options and placed you at a spot that feels almost as cold as death. But even in times like that you have a choice, that is, the choice of what next. After all your wallowing and loud screams down dark alleys, life will go on. It certainly will, whether you’re rock bottom or Everest high.
So only when you’ve felt the full weight of the situation do you sit up and make that choice. This choice need not be a courageous undertaking after all. It may not even be selfless. You suffered and you owe it to yourself to call the shots, to consider your well being for once. You will tell yourself simple things like “what will make me happy” or “what can get me out of this mess?” It is the mistake of outsiders to look at someone suffering and expect them to make noble choices. We expect them to not only be cheerful, but be cheerful for us, be cheerful because those around have to be assured that everything is OK. Somehow the status of the sufferer gets elevated to the point where both the way they choose to suffer and the outcome of their trials have to have positive outcomes so their touching stories can be repeated.
I’m not saying that this shouldn’t be the case. I have the deepest admiration for people who go through hardship and emerge champions, who help others and in the process help themselves. Never once do they flinch. They are so selfless to the point where you feel like a bad person just observing them. I admire them to no end. What I’m saying is that not everyone possesses such strength. It is okay to put yourself in front, your happiness and your future ahead of those around you who will never understand the true extent of your suffering. It is okay to be ugly when it counts, to give your suffering respect. In no way are you expected to be strong because of an unspoken truce amongst sufferers to portray grace and strength. For crying out loud, you can complain all you want and I’ll listen to you. You’re suffering, and you deserve all the help in the world. It should not be us expecting to gain strength from you, but the other way around.
Always remember that.