The poem I posted this morning was written in 2016, when I went through one of the most painful experiences of my life. During that time, I wanted desperately to reach for anger and blame—to “build my walls so high I’d never hurt again.” But I also recognized that if I did, I would cut myself off from being able to experience the kind of love and connection I so desperately wanted. In the words of CS Lewis:
“Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries: avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. I twill not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
During this time, I made it my goal to stay open and loving. Every time I found myself in pain and reaching for blame, I meditated and journaled through it, writing about my experience in a way that helped the painful events make sense and reflect positively on my life and the person who had hurt me. (I’ve since learned this is called re-framing and is a psychological tool often used to heal trauma.) Little by little, I began to heal, and when my friend later wanted to make amends I was able to do so wholeheartedly and without resentment. The experience taught me one of the most important lessons of my life: that the only way out of pain is through it, and I have had much less trouble remaining open and loving through painful events since then.
Recently, however, I went through a similar, if less severe, experience of pain and became stuck. It simply wouldn’t pass. Every time I tried to sit with this pain or journal my way through it, I found myself casting the person who had hurt me in a negative light and reaching for blame, anger, and resentment rather than acceptance, love, and gratitude. Day after day, night after night, my mind circled back, and no matter how many ways I looked at it, no matter how many different angles I tried to approach it from, no matter what stories I tried to come up with to make sense of it all, I simply couldn’t. For weeks, I lived with a burning ache and seething anger inside that I tried to ignore. Until one day it hit me:
My problem wasn’t that I didn’t understand. My problem was that I was clinging to my desire to understand.
What had worked in the past wouldn’t work now, because my inability to make sense of it all was the very thing keeping me from letting go. Long ago, I had realized that in order to live a healthy life I needed to allow people to misjudge me and ascribe false intentions to the things I did, else I would go through life constantly worried about the opinions of others and wasting time and energy defending myself. Now, I realized I needed to allow myself to misunderstand someone else. I needed to give myself permission to never make sense of what had happened or understand all the reasons that it had.
The moment I gave myself this permission and accepted the fact that I would never completely understand, my anger and resentment melted away. For the most part, I don’t think about it anymore, but when I do the process goes something like this:
“Do you remember when ____”
“I just don’t understand why ____”
In 2016, I learned that the only way to accept love is to accept the pain that necessarily accompanies relationships with fallible human beings. Today, I’m learning that true love also means accepting that there will be things in my life I simply don’t understand and may never make sense of.
And I’m learning to be okay with that.