As long as I am alive there will always be another side—an other side. In the midst of grief, loss, pain, or transition I often feel as if the struggle will never end. I get stuck in the mire, sometimes allowing dark thoughts to take over and losing myself for a while. I forget that there are lessons to be learned, messages to be received, and feelings within that need to be heard during these times. The struggle does not have to be so difficult. And, on the other side I am a better, stronger version of me.
To be human is to suffer. On any given day, each of us experiences some form of strife—whether directly or through the experiences of the people we love. We often view our own problems in a vacuum rather than on a spectrum of suffering. One person’s lost purse is another’s night without a roof over her head. For some reason, it all feels the same. This could be why we are sometimes disconnected from empathy and fail to recognize true suffering.
I believe that part of this stems from the mass belief that life can be perfect. This, however, is a fallacy. It prevents us from experiencing each moment for what it is—whether we are in the midst of the tempest or basking in the sun. Nothing is perfect and the idea that life can ever be normal exacerbates the pain we feel during difficult times. I know that when I release this belief I free myself up to feel both highs and lows. I realize that while life cannot be perfect, there are snippets of time in which we can get damn close. This often happens on the other side.
I have survived so many things. One of the most indescribably painful events was my father’s murder. There are countless other experiences I could list here, but this sticks out most prominently in my mind. When my father died, it came out of nowhere, steamrolling over me until I thought that I would also die. I can still remember viewing his casket, collapsing, and getting carried out of the room. My grief was palpable. For years, I did not see an other side. I rambled along living at half light; mostly just surviving. I did not believe that I would ever be happy again. But moment by moment things began to improve. I miraculously graduated from college. I got a job. I went to law school. Piece by piece, life continued and joy began to creep in. I built a life where there once was ruin. In retrospect, I see that I was gradually crossing over.
Throughout my life I have, of course, had other problems. Often times they sent me into a tailspin because I did not know how to see the bigger picture. I could not remember to tell myself that if I had survived the loss of my father I could survive most anything. Other problems—though devastating—paled in comparison to that experience yet I floundered and flailed and screamed in agony each time something didn’t seem like it would work out. I realize now that it probably stemmed from the abandonment I felt when my dad suddenly left me—a crushing blow at the most primal level, where my “little girl” resides. Yet, as time went on and I kept crossing over I began to realize that there was much to be gained during the struggles.
Each time I suffered, I was lifted up by someone who cared. Each time I wept, the tears brought new awareness. My pounding fists brought on exhausted sleep during which I dreamt new dreams. Through each trial I gained greater understanding of who I am. In turn, I was able to better show up for others. They say with age we gain wisdom. But I believe the struggles rather than the years provide our lessons.
I have recently been thrown into a new challenge. This prompted me to think about being on the other side of things. When I reflect on it, it is a place of peace and unbridled happiness, unconditional love and faith that things will be okay. On the other side I know that if I am still in one piece, waking up to live and breathe another day, that I can do anything. I rejoice in the act of living. Today I concluded that when I am struggling I do not have to wait to get around it. Having survived my father’s death—and knowing what it is like on the other side—I can evoke the positive feelings of that place before the pain has ended. I can remember that I can get through it, and that life must be lived fully even in the shadow of my pain.