"Each bruise is a lesson. Each lesson makes us better." Syrio Forel, a Game of Thrones character.
I love this quote for its simple brilliance. There are a million versions of it floating around and whenever I see one, i pause to consider it.
It's never not true.
The problem, is appreciating it and being able to recognize its big picture implications when you're in that period of suffering and setback.
When you're in that moment, whether it's an hour or a day or a year ... and the pain grabs you like a boa constrictor trying to suck the air out of you. There's this feeling of hopelessness or despair -- you're overwhelmed and feel your world caving in. Whatever you wanted or needed isn't happening, despite your best efforts.
We've all been there at one point or another.
But eventually something happens, the suffering wanes and you move on from it - you're probably better for the experience.
Things are always clearer after the fact and life seems easier when viewed from the rear view mirror.
Often times we'll look back on a particularly challenging time in our lives and feel grateful things happened the way they did. Maybe a relationship ended badly, but it paved the way for a new one. Maybe you didn't get that job you really wanted but you wound up with an even better one.
One of my pet sayings is "growth thru pain."
It's having the experience and knowledge to understand that life is always happening for us, not to us. The pain we experience today becomes the joy we experience tomorrow. I promise.
I'd like to take this opportunity on sweetest day, the fakest of fake holidays, to discuss the seeming inevitable fate of long term relationships and why good relationships so often go bad.
we've all been there right? you meet someone and the chemistry is instant. they're beautiful and wonderful, you think about them all day. the time you spend together seems magical. everything is fun and exciting and interesting. you date for awhile, you envision spending your entire life with this person. maybe you get married, and on it goes.
then what happens?
for many ... the fun fades, the excitement dulls, the chemistry wanes. you're no longer lovers, you're co-habitators occupying the same physical space. you become glorified roommates. you share the same bed but emotionally could not be more disconnected.
and maybe this situation i describe is a best case scenario. maybe you hate the person you're with. maybe you resent everything about them. their loud chewing when they eat or some other obnoxious idiosyncrasy they possess that drives you up the wall. you're miserable and feel completely and totally trapped.
why does this happen?
the biggest reason is we are constantly changing as people. think about who you were five years ago, ten years ago. you're very different now, right? well the same is true for the person you're with. you change, they change .. it seems improbable to think that all these changes we go thru will result in the same level of compatibility with one another over time.
then, if you introduce kids into the mix at some point, the relationship you initially experienced with the other person becomes unrecognizable. its completely different. the priorities have evolved and the dynamic shifts.
maybe you start keeping score. the resentment builds to a crescendo. you're no longer able to communicate at all. you search for any reason at all not to spend time with them.
virtually none of your needs are being met. emotionally, physically, intellectually .. its all gone. at this point you and the entire relationship have become extremely vulnerable.
what do we do next?
we feel so lost, so trapped. this is not how we envisioned our life going. it wasn't supposed to be like this at all. we were in love. we were going to be different.
confronting this reality is one of the hardest things we will ever do. if you've found me here i already give you a ton of credit. it means you realized something is wrong. you're searching for answers. the period of denial is over.
for me personally, the hardest choices are always made easier when viewed thru the prism of how short life is and how quickly time moves. we only live once. i just turned 36. in the blink of an eye i'll be 46 .. then 56. i'll be a senior citizen in no time. do i really want to live my best years here wallowing in this unhappiness. experiencing this constant pain and misery?
first and foremost we need to be honest with ourselves. what is the true nature of our problems? why the feelings of discontent and frustration?
it is only when we ask ourselves these direct questions that we can produce the answers that will lead us back to a happy, fulfilled place. We will never know the solution if we don't first determine the problem.
brutal honest with ourselves will ultimately be our salvation - always.
Today is my birthday.
today is my birthday. by nature, i am a more nostalgic, introspective person. birthdays provide very clear benchmarks for marking the passage of time and if you're like me, ruminating about the past.
one year ago, two years, five years, ten years ago! time flies!!
where was i? what was i doing? who was i with? and perhaps most significantly ..... who was i back then?
my life has thus far been dotted with wonderful experiences. if i die tomorrow, i assure you it will be with a smile on my face. But as i look back and reminisce, i can't help but feel like my life has so far been defined by what wasn't, instead of what was.
regrets? oh i have a few .. doesn't everyone? it's probably not very productive to sit here and dwell on life's past events, can't change it anyway, why waste the energy, right? but understanding the past clues us in to the present, and offers a possible road map to the (our) future. the past, our life that has past -- can have significant value.
one cliche i hear so often today is "live in the present." it's great advice sure, but isn't the present just a current accumulation of life's past events? isn't this present version of our self just a sum total of all the choices and events that came before this one?
to say the past doesn't define us is silly. it certainly defines me. the three or four most significant events in my life over the past twenty years were unequivocally negative. but those things shaped me, they yielded significant change in me, they forced me to confront myself, they demanded i pursue a different course of thought and/or action. these events more than any others in my life, helped me grow and become who i am today.
so today i will think about the past, and the present and certainly the future. i will take comfort in knowing that no matter what happens today or tomorrow .. things will be ok. it could be extremely difficult or frustrating and it probably will be, but i will be comforted in my understanding that the proper perspective will enable me to move forward confidently and optimistically knowing that whatever happens is creating a better version of myself. if i let it.