“All at once, the world can overwhelm me, there’s almost nothing that you could tell me that could ease my mind. Which way will you run, when it’s always all around you? And the feeling lost and found you again, the feeling that we have no control.”—Jack Johnson, All At Once.

Sometimes all it takes is one second for everything in your life to come crashing down. Once you’ve been alive long enough you know thisperhaps too well. Everything changes, and sometimes it all happens in an instant. In those moments, it can feel as though you’re in a free fall. Everything you thought was certain has been turned upside down. Your own reaction can surprise you in these moments. If you’re normally a calm, rational person, the difficult moments can be so overwhelming that you lose all sense of reason and find yourself behaving in ways that you never thought possible. The normally stable you is replaced by an insecure, impatient person that can be hard to recognize. You lash out at the world, sometimes unconsciously. You engage in destructive behaviour. And if the pain is deep enough and the suffering lasts long enough, you start to believe that this new version of yourself is who you really are. The most heartbreaking truth of all in times like these, is that your suffering doesn’t end with you; it extends to the people who love you. Indeed, sometimes the people who suffer the most are the ones watching the situation unfold, helpless to do anything to stop it.

It’s incredibly hurtful when we see someone we love become cynical and jaded, building a tough outer shell to deal with the pain that life has thrown at them. We’re social creatures, and we build strong bonds with the people around us. In hard times, we pull together to help each other. This is what makes us most humanthe ability to share with what’s happening in each others’ lives. To reach out and say “You are not alone. I know you are suffering, and I am here with you.” It rarely feels like enough. But it’s important not to underestimate the power of a kind word, or of compassionate presence. The most generous thing you can do is to give somebody a piece of yourself. Compartmentalization is the enemy of being human.

The lotus needs the mud in order to grow into a beautiful flower.
In this same way, your experiences are the soil out of which your beauty will bloom.
Your greatest suffering will give birth to your greatest compassion, and an open heart.

On the receiving end, remember that there’s probably nothing more important in life than real, meaningful human connection. Don’t be the person who pushes other people away when you’re in pain. Let them be there for you. Don’t let your past be an excuse for being bitter and jaded. When the shit comes, and it inevitably will, remember that suffering is always easier when shared. There are people in your life who will be there to hold your hand, to listen to you when you’re dissecting a situation for the hundredth time, or sometimes just to sit with you, because sometimes that’s all that anyone can do. The only thing you will accomplish by isolating yourself is that you will be alone. You might feel good initially, but it will only amplify your suffering and serve to reinforce the idea that the world is a cruel place and that people cannot be counted on. It’s a vicious cycle without a positive outcome.

Each experience has the power to change you for the better if you can keep an open heart. There are always lessons to be learned. Use your suffering as an opportunity to bloom into a better version of yourself. The version that is compassionate, loving, kind, gentle, selfless, giving and solid. Don’t lash out at the world; rather, let yourself be broken open. I promise you that there’s beauty within you greater than you could ever have imagined.

image: lotus in mud via Shutterstock