Suffering is universal. We all suffer. In our own ways and with own inner demons we battle things that can seemingly destroy us. I think every person on earth has an event in their life – at least one – that they can look back and wonder how they survived it. I had a moment to look again at suffering and the human condition this weekend.
I served on a panel at Westerly Library with other local authors and a local author who owns a publishing house. This event was for the main benefit of the writing group that meets on Saturday mornings at the library. The group wanted to speak with local authors who published their work and were willing to answer questions about their writing process and the road to publishing. It was an honor to be included with other writers and I learned just as much as I shared. It was a great event.
How does this relate to suffering?
Ahead of the session, the event organizer sent the panelists a list of questions submitted by the writers and asking us to answer one that they’d feature in Facebook posts announcing the event. One question really stood out And I had to answer it:
Q: How do you deal with negative self talk? Or the thought that ‘I don’t need to write that’ or ‘nobody wants to read about that’?
A: As a person who has anxiety this question really spoke to me. I’ve been a blogger for 16 years, so sharing measured parts of myself was nothing new to me, but this was very different. Writing about my weight – which was something I lied to myself about for years – was very frightening. I continually battled the thoughts of sharing too much and I really wondered if anyone else ever felt like I felt. It was like pushing myself off a cliff to publish my book. The best thing was that in all of my fear and anxiety and embarrassing situations with my weight was that there was not a single unique feeling. People resonated with what I wrote. Even without having weight problems people looked behind the specifics and saw themselves and their struggles in my struggle and benefit from my sharing. Blessing for me and for them.
What would be the point of struggle if not to use it as a flashlight to help someone else out of the cave?
Flashlight in a cave. That’s really what happens when we share our struggles. We open ourselves to others and share our humanity with compassion and empathy and provide others a way out. Currently, we live in the most connected time in history yet we are wrought with loneliness! We share our highly filtered images and obsession with material goods often forgetting the people behind the images. The story in the details. Who we really are, not just what we want people to believe.
I’m positive that the more we share of our authentic selves the more we connect, then we can relate, then we can build bridges of understanding. When I started sharing the stories of my experience with weight and anxiety I was terrified that people wouldn’t understand or judge me based on the truths I told especially since I’d spent decades attempting to minimize the roles both things played in my life. Then I discovered the more I shared, the more people let me know that I was never alone in my feelings. Somedays I think of the many opportunities I had where I could’ve safely opened up to a friend and I couldn’t out of fear, pride, and judgment.
If only I took that step of faith into vulnerbility and authenticity in those moments it could’ve saved me years of self imposed isolation.
I wouldn’t recommend that you open a fire hydrant of emotions on unsuspecting people, but if you have a friend who is genuinely concerned for you and you have a moment to share what is really going on inside… take the leap.
If you have found yourself exiting a cave with a flashlight and a well-worn map then share the route and share the light. What was once your suffering could be the blessing someone needs and the healing you deserve.
My faith has been a huge part of my healing and my sharing. There are so many questions that come up regarding suffering and God. There are many written resources that beautifully address this. One of my favorites is this one.