There will be days when you don’t wake up feeling excited to write, or even to start the day.
Inspiration will not lift you out of bed. You will find the warmth of your pillow infinitely more alluring than the click of the keyboard. When you finally wrestle down inertia and manage to rise, you will make your coffee automatically. There will be no sense of wonder or contemplating how it looks like black silk as you pour it into a mug.
You will drink two cups and still feel tired.
You will not seek meaning in the sidewalks that lead to work, the vegetable market, the park where you recharge during lunch breaks. You will most likely be tangled in a loop of unhelpful thoughts, the storm in your mind sweeping you off the ground beneath your feet. You will feel anger and sadness, or other emotions that make you uncomfortable.
These days will come. You will eventually encounter pain, suffering, and loss. This is true whether you have made good or bad choices.
When hurt comes knocking at your door, avoid blaming yourself for not doing enough to keep it away. The best you can do is accept its presence. Maybe you can even allow it into your home for a cup of tea. It is, after all, a guest like any other.
Hurt comes for all of us simply because we exist in this world. In Becoming Wise (p. 252), Krista Tippett reminds us: “All of our solutions will eventually outlive their usefulness. We will make messes, and disruption we do not cause or predict will land on us. This is the drama of being alive.”
You might fail at something. You may have a way of coping with loss or organizing your daily routine that has carried you through many years, and suddenly it doesn’t anymore. You might have a lapse in judgement that carries consequences. A relative or loved one may pass away. Several of them will, actually, through the passage of years. You could find yourself in the midst of a natural disaster or political violence. You might go to the doctor one day and walk out with a diagnosis that alters the course of your life. These are all terribly painful things, and it is terribly likely that at least one of them will happen to you.
There are no ways of living wholeheartedly that will allow you to avoid hurt. Brene Brown has discussed this brilliantly in The Gifts of Imperfection. She warns us that the only way to avoid hurt is by numbing ourselves. There are many distractions and painkillers at our disposable. But once we numb ourselves to hurt, we become numb to everything else: joy, curiosity, eager anticipation.
I think the best we can do on days when pain seeks a place in our homes is to remember our resilience. Returning to Tippett, I like how she has described this concept:
“Resilience honors the unromantic reality of who we are and how we are… [It is] a way of being that can meet the range of emotions and experiences, light and dark, that add up to a life. Resilience is at once proactive, pragmatic, and humble. It knows it needs others. It doesn’t overcome failure so much as transmute it, integrating it into the reality that evolves” (p. 252).
How do we cultivate resilience? To begin, we need to get comfortable with adversity and vulnerability. We need to find balance between loving and caring for oneself, and seeking love and help from others. We cannot do resilience alone, and resilience cannot be done for us. It takes practice, just like waking up every day to write. It is a form of muscle memory we develop, just like riding a bike. Whenever the going gets rough, it’s an opportunity for us to refine our resilience. These are the things I try to tell myself on days like these.