How you respond to tragedy and suffering is one true measure of your strength. You need to see those moments as moments of growth. You need to look upon them as gifts to help you reclaim what is important in your life. The question you must ask yourself is not if you will heal, but how. Grief and pain have their own duration, and when they begin to pass, you must take care to guide the shape of the new being you are to become. So you should not fear tragedy and suffering. Like love, they make you more a part of the human family. From them can come your greatest creativity. They are the fire that burns you pure.
Over and over we break
open, we break and
we break and we open.
For a while, we try to fix
the vessel — as if
to be broken is bad.
As if with glue and tape
and a steady hand we
might bring things to perfect
again. As if they were ever
perfect. As if to be broken is not
also perfect. As if to be open
is not the path toward joy.
The vase that’s been shattered
and cracked will never
hold water. Eventually
it will leak. And at some
point, perhaps, we decide
that we’re done with picking
our flowers anyway, and no
longer need a place to contain them
We watch them grow just
as wildflowers do — unfenced,
unmanaged, blossoming only
when they’re ready — and mygod,
how beautiful they are amidst
the mounting pile of shards.
Rosemery Wahtola Trommer, American Poet, The Way it is
I do dimly perceive that whilst everything around me is ever changing, ever dying, there is underlying all that change a living power that is changeless, that holds all together, that creates, dissolves and recreates...for I can see that in the midst of death, life persists, in the midst of untruth, truth persists, in the midst of darkness, light persists.
Mohatma Gandhi, Spiritual Message (London, Kingsley Hall, 20 October 1931)
The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread
Their greenness is a kind of grief.
Is it that they are born again
and we grow old? No, they die too.
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.
Yet still unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.
When I want to summon strength and power in the midst of awfulness and hate, I contemplate water.
Our ideas of strength so often surround images of things that are hard — like rock or even a clenched fist. Perhaps that’s why we think love doesn’t include strength, just softness. We are thinking in only one dimension. That’s why I think of water, in all its manifestations. Look at the many ways we experience water: It trickles, spurts, floods, pours, streams, soaks, and shows itself in many more modes. All these convey evanescence, release, flow. They are all about not being stuck.
Water is flexible, taking the shape of whatever vessel it flows into. It’s always interacting, changing, in motion, yet revealing continual patterns of connection. Water can be so expressive, a signal of our most heartfelt feelings. We cry tears of sorrow, tears of outrage, tears of gratitude, and tears of joy. Water can be puzzling, seeming weak or ineffectual, yielding too much, not holding firm. And yet over time water will carve its own pathway, even through rock. And yes, water freezes. But it also melts.
Human beings have always found uplift and inspiration in metaphors, like water, but we also take inspiration from other people, and their strength and resiliency in the face of difficult circumstances—the ways in which they unfreeze themselves and make change.
Sharon Salzberg, Real Change
Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing. Use the pain as fuel, as a reminder of your strength
August Wilson, 1945 – 2005, American Pulitzer Prize winning playwright