“I can’t stop the waves but I can learn to surf.” Unknown
“When life’s problems seem overwhelming, look around and see what other people are coping with. You may consider yourself fortunate.” Unknown
“Is there a difference between happiness and inner peace? Yes. Happiness depends on conditions being perceived as positive; inner peace does not.” Eckhart Tolle
How pompous it is to assume we know what another is feeling or dealing with in their lives. I for one have done that so many times that I am drowning in my thoughts of regret. I said nothing hurtful to the people who were suffering with situations, but I never totally understood the depth of their problems. I now realize there are perhaps many issues others must face that are much more difficult than they appear on the surface.
Maybe it is competition. We have faith that we love the most, work the hardest, and suffer the worst. The truth is there are many paths of suffering we endure. It is paramount that we don’t underestimate another burden, sorrow or worry. We can be so off the mark yet assume we are on target and know exactly what is going on. Nothing could be further from the truth. I suppose that is why there are support groups for a variety of problems. Who else would understand what one is going through except those who have walked the road?
How many times one hears someone without kids mention that mom and dad must be so tired from coping with the baby or children. As much as they mean well, they can’t grasp the all consuming job parenting is. They will only comprehend it when they become parents. Of course the perks of the peanut butter kisses and muddy hugs far outweigh the burdens of parenting. Parents of teens likely will confess that their lives with kids are even more difficult than the constant wake up calls at night from babies and toddlers. Parents of babies and toddlers might disagree but time will prove the answer.
Dealing with empty nest syndrome is a profound enlightenment. Parents are more aware of their own mortality and are forced to confront tremendous transformations in their lives. The further away their kids move, the harder the emotional distancing becomes. Many of us try to comfort friends and some acquaintances with our casual remarks about the changes. Unless one has been through it personally in one way or another, it can’t be explained. It is like being tremendously happy yet profoundly devastated. We are glad our kids have wings but we miss them.
Those who deal with sick or injured children are in a class by themselves, Their burden is so powerful, they can only cope with divine intervention. Most people offer their sympathy and shy away from any kind of advice. Divorce and death of spouses’ brings a total transformation. Most of us refrain from giving comfort to the divorced because we believe it is a mutual dissolution which it might not be. Their loss can be as close to a death as one gets without the actual experience. Even if it was desired, one is still experiencing a transition and many alterations.
Alzheimer’s and dementia are the secret problems we talk about in whispers. So many are affected that we choose to pretend it suddenly just happened, this unusual circumstance, yet is is very prevalent especially due to the longevity of peoples’ lives. Many people don’t like to hear it and would rather deny it because it may bring their own fear out in the open. What we do fear we isolate ourselves from it and express our sorrow to others without really comprehending what another is facing. I can’t say it is anyone’s fault. I do think that when we don’t understand an issue we should at the least refrain from the judgements of those caregivers who are dealing with it.
Those who don’t have kids shouldn’t pretend they know how to raise them or assume they could do a better job. Kids are different and require a variety of parental attitudes for nurturing them. I remember a good friend who admitted how critical she was of other peoples’ kids. Her daughter was quiet and easy to handle. Then her son was born and she said one day, “If I hadn’t had him I would never have known how hard it was to raise a child. I assumed all those people with unruly kids just didn’t know how to manage them correctly. Now I know kids are not the same and it isn’t easy.” I admired her truthfulness along with her awareness.
Parents love unconditionally. That means they accept the tantrums and heartaches kids dump on them. I see parents as taking the place of God on earth. They must suffer without retaliation at times. They suffer the pains of their kids even more than their kids are hurting. They feel what their kids feel. Nobody can explain that kind of love to another person.
Loss of a spouse brings about changes in our lives. Nothing is the same and new habits must be formed. Nobody can discuss the simple small things that are now missing. One perhaps misses the rolled up towel on the floor or the dirty socks by the bedside. They miss the smell of the Saturday morning coffee. The list is endless. Dementia can be similar because the things someone used to do they can’t do anymore. They are really not the same person and that can’t be explained in fifteen or twenty minutes on a phone call. The closer one is to the truth, the quicker the recognition, and the feeling of loss.
Sickness forces the healthy to take on more responsibility with new jobs added to the overburdened. I now understand how a simple, ‘you must be so tired.’ is so off the mark. I would now venture to say “I can’t really understand or appreciate what you are experiencing but I am sorry for your difficulties and admire your strength.”
The last thing I would want to do now is judge or gossip. If I am not walking in your shoes how can I state what I would or wouldn’t do. I can accept you, wish you comfort and support in any possible way you deem appropriate. How prideful we are when we assume we can handle a situation so much better than the person attempting to do it. Instead I would be thankful I am not tested in that manner.
We all face our problems. Isn’t it time we simply smiled and in that smile admitted our limited knowledge about the situation. Probably understanding that the person is coping the best they can is all we must acknowledge in order to provide peace and serenity for that person. Many times in our lives we can appear strong and capable. Many other times we might feel desperate, vulnerable and helpless in a given situation. A kind hand, smile or gesture of goodwill will do more service than all the criticism of the proper handling of a dilemma. As they say, people won’t remember what you did but they will remember how you made them feel.
Perhaps the most damaging thing we can do is underestimate another person’s burdens. What we perceive as simple may be far more hurtful and damaging to them than we will ever know. We all live in our own prisons. What we endure cannot be measured or quantified. We should be thankful we are not experiencing what we see another suffer. Offering our empathy, and giving our support diminishes pain. We don’t want to inflict more sorrow with nasty gossip. Lighten someone’s load today and perhaps tomorrow they will be there for you.
“Never let the things you want make you forget the things you have.” Unknown
“Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man’s power ends.” George Muellar
“Give up defining yourself – to yourself or to others. You won’t die. You will come to life. And don’t be concerned with how others define you. When they define you, they are limiting themselves, so it’s their problem. Whenever you interact with people, don’t be there primarily as a function or a role, but as the field of conscious Presence. You can only lose something that you have, but you cannot lose something that you are.” Eckhart Tolle