Monday, October 12, 2015

Why Share Struggle?

"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to one another." ~ Mother Teresa

We long for peace and understanding, and yet it seems so far out of reach. I often pause to contemplate this quest for peace and acceptance within myself, how I sense it in others and in the world. We all thirst for it, but it seems elusive.

As a writer, I tend to be drawn to writing about my life, my personal experiences and the learning that has come, or is coming from them. I often share very personal accounts of struggle, and I frequently have moments, days, or even weeks of hesitation as I decide whether to publish or keep my writing private. That hesitation is not typically derived from any personal shame or insecurity about the challenges I am revealing, but rather the social attitudes I have encountered around vulnerability and being open and honest about the difficulties of this life.

"Don't compare your reality to someone else's highlight reel." ~ Jill Sessa

When I am online I detect a kind of pressure to never let them see you sweat, and I would add, cry, despair, fail, hurt, outrage, suffer or anything that does not fit with the one dimensional "good life" we have perpetrated on each other, especially on social media. I am not saying we should hold back from sharing all the good stuff we have going on. Lordy, in today's world of bad and worse news it is such good medicine to see each other living and thriving, loving our families, our friends, our work. What I am saying is that we should feel equally empowered to share our tough times too, lest we all end up feeling like the only one in our circles that stumbles and falls every once in a while, or, let's be real, every single day in some fashion (at least I do).

When we allow ourselves to be seen in all the ways we show up, and meeting all the diverse experiences life is throwing at us, then we can begin to cultivate real and meaningful connections with our communities both large and small. I cringe when I hear people criticizing others for posting, blogging or in other ways sharing their hurts, sad moments, illnesses, relationship challenges, mental health problems and so on. I have heard accusations of narcissism, being an attention hound, holding a pity party and general commentary of  "I can't believe that she/he put that out there, like in public!"

My take on this is that, whatever the motivation for sharing...BRAVO! It takes courage to be honest and authentic, vulnerable. I am not held hostage by someone's choice to share something. I get to choose if I want to respond or not, and if I respond, I get to choose in what manner and how much. I get to hold my personal boundaries, and I can do so without judgment of any kind; no judging of my action and no need to judge their action. If we could all embrace that, imagine the freedom we would have with each other and ourselves. How liberating it is to share what is real, both the sweet and the gritty, with no fear of rejection or reprisal. I endeavor to model that in my sharing and way of communicating with others both on and offline.

We should share our struggles because it increases empathy and inclusion. It is my experience, that when I disclose a challenge I am working with, someone almost always thanks me for making them feel not so alone. I know there are probably others who do not understand why I would reveal what I do, but that one person who feels supported and understood always makes it worth it.

Our wounds are ultimately our gifts, our obstacles are our greatest opportunities, and we can find the healing that eventuates that much more quickly, and with greater immediate impact, when we do it in relationship, in the company of our fellow journeyers. When we see and are being seen, clarity is awakened, the clouds part. Light emanates from the joining of hands and hearts, but this can't happen without the presence of trust and compassion. If we are hiding from each other in fear, our lights are hidden as well.

We should share our struggles because it is the path to peace. When we feel separate or apart from our human family; when we feel judged, alienated, misunderstood, or outcast, that is when fear takes hold and anger grows. When we feel separate from each other, we become protective, defensive, ready to battle...and we do battle. The more we battle the more we withdraw and withhold, we hide our wounds and mask our weakness with a shiny exterior that we imagine to be bullet proof, but really, it is just connection proof. It holds us back, keeps us in a small shell, stifled. Pressure builds in there, that pressure can become violence. That pressure is the stuff of war.

My teacher Devarshi says, "There are really only two prayers in this world, "Help me, help me, help me." and "Thank you, thank you, thank you.". When we create a culture in which it is safe to say our "help me" prayers out loud, they can get magnified and energized, so that the "thank you" prayers can become bigger and stronger. Together we can make those "thank you" prayers more and more abundant, because we are manifesting a world of love and support. That sounds like peace to me.

My prayer, my hope, is for a time when I, you, anyone, can speak their truth, be exactly who they are in any given moment, and be met with respect and a willingness to try to understand. I hope for a time when I can share any struggle I am facing without hesitation, and when I do I will not be applauded for my bravery, because bravery will no longer be required.

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