“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.”
~ Helen Keller
Most of the best things that have ever happened to me have also seemed like the most devastating at the time of their occurrence.
Take every break-up I’ve ever been through as an example. At the time, each one of them completely rocked my emotional world in a way that often had me wondering if I’d ever be the same again (spoiler alert: I wouldn’t, but that’s actually a good thing). Most of them left me crying more tears than I knew I was capable of producing. Some of them caused me to question every life choice I’d made up to that point in time. And all of them catalyzed a period of deep introspection that ultimately resulted in some sort of significant shift or transformation in thought, behavior, or otherwise.*
Breaking up – or being broken up with, depending upon the circumstances – has sort of been my bread-and-butter recipe for fostering my own self-cultivation.
Almost two years ago, I went through a break-up that initiated a period of such sadness and hopelessness, I thought I would never recover. The strange thing was, I absolutely knew that the man with whom I had broken up (well, actually, he did the breaking) was not someone with whom I wanted to be spending any more of my time.
The relationship was hands-down unhealthy. And completely lacking in joy.
And yet I found myself weeping daily anyway, then wondering what the hell was going on. Because my rational mind was telling me he’d done me a favor by ending things, while my heart continued to shatter into a million tiny pieces.
Eventually, I realized I could not stay there in that state of complete devastation, or give over any more of my power to someone who was so undeserving of such a thing. And I started to do some serious work on me.
What I uncovered was an alarmingly deep lack of self-love.
A realization that scared the crap out of me.
So I went about changing that reality and began learning how to love myself. Which was not easy or quick or without setbacks. But was, ultimately, successful.
And continues to be.
Because loving yourself is a process, one that takes place every day and requires commitment and acceptance of imperfections and deep breaths and forgiveness.
Like I said, it isn’t easy. But it is absolutely worth the effort.
So, what’s the point?
In the case of this particular story, it’s this: If that boy had not broken my heart when he did, I might never have learned how to love myself. Or it might have taken several more months or years for that lesson to show up in my life.
In general, the point is this: You can’t see the lesson until you’ve learned it most of the time. And more often than not, it takes heartbreak or setbacks or apparent failure or frustration or not getting what you thought you wanted to bring you into contact with the most profound lessons of your life.
I know this has been the case for me, at least.
Lately, I’ve encountered a series of disappointments and setbacks and unmet expectations and feelings of failure – both personally and professionally – that have resulted in some doubt and lots of tears and occasionally a complete loss of faith.
But mostly, I’ve been trying to remind myself that many of the most joyful and productive and fulfilling times of my life have been preceded by heartbreak and sadness and loneliness.
And that in that sadness there lies a depth and a profundity that can enrich your experience of joy and love and laughter and beauty if you allow it to do so.
As Rainer Maria Rilke said, “Where something becomes extremely difficult and unbearable, there we also stand already quite near its transformation.”
Your sadness is not permanent.
You are not alone in your loneliness.
And you will be transformed by heartache – and heartbreak – if you can surrender yourself to the process while continuing to trust that it’s leading you in the direction of a more wholehearted and evolved you.
Because it is. I promise.
And in the meantime, Ruby Jewel has this really great horchata sorbet you should probably try. Buy a pint. Eat it in the bathtub with a glass of wine. You won’t regret it.
*Confession: I’m kind of a sappy romantic at heart. Don’t tell anyone. It’s a secret.