Most times when we struggle, we feel that we are alone. Isolated. That no one else could ever feel this way. We make islands out of heartbreak and wonder how we will ever come back home. You have been there.
When we gain the weight and lose our self-worth. When we avoid looking at ourselves in the reflection of the mirror because we don’t want to see who we are. Perhaps you’ve felt the isolation of moving to a new place, starting a new job, or ending an old relationship. That awkwardness of walking into a new place- a gym, bar, or social event- and having this sense that you don’t belong. When no one accepts your attempt at connection and you feel pervasively alone.
And when we are human, we lose the people that loved us more than anyone else ever could. We sit in the dark on a bed, not knowing how to fill what’s been lost.
We wonder what it would mean to ever feel whole or happy again.
We come back from war, but don’t ever feel at home.
We feel the sting of not being able to bring into the world the child we’ve always hoped to create.
We keep doing the very things that hurt us as our best attempt to feel better.
We feel desperate for love and unworthy of receiving it.
Part of walking this earth means that will we all experience the joy of a child’s laughter, the comfort in a gentle hug, and the feeling of magic while watching a magnificent sunset. It means that we all will navigate discomfort and feelings of inadequacy when our best efforts fall short. We all will experience our darkest days and sit in the depths of our greatest flaws. Without exception, we will all make decisions we wish we hadn’t, and our hearts will break.
I want to remind you of this because at any given moment, one of us are experiencing the pain of what it means to be human.
And this isn’t only about being kind to one another. It’s about being compassionate. About recognizing someone’s suffering and knowing that you’ve been there- or will be there- too. It’s about making a choice in that moment to reach out; to use your arms as an extension of your heart, and connect to someone who is hurting. Compassion is both about being aware of suffering and making an effort to relieve it.
One of my most favorite stories is about an Arabic woman who was waiting to get on the plane. She didn’t speak much English and didn’t understand the flight attendant who told her the flight was delayed- not cancelled. She fell to the floor in desperation as she had a major medical treatment she needed to get to the next day, she was fearful for her life. The airline requested that any Arabic speaking person come forward to help. Another woman did. She explained the situation and helped her to call her son. They then called the other woman’s father. Soon they were both laughing and others had noticed. Another person shared their homemade cookies. Two small children began passing out cups of water, lemonade. They all got onto the flight together and continued on like old friends. It was a beautiful flight and demonstration of what happens when we notice, when we take care of one another, when we build bridges.
As a therapist, I have the privilege of sitting with people in their deepest hurts. And as a collector of stories, what I want you to know is that we all have the same experience of sadness, loss, and disappointment. We all want to be loved deeply and connected in ways that feel supportive and safe. From the person experiencing homelessness, to the person fleeing their country in search of safety, and to the Veteran who feels unsafe in his body. To the senior in high school who is getting ready to leave home for college. To the woman who wasn’t given the choice to consent. And to you, the person reading this, who has overcome challenges of your own. You are not alone. This isn’t about comparing each other’s pain and invalidating our difficulties, this about acknowledging our humanness. This is about allowing ourselves to connect to another person because we all need it so deeply.
The world I want to live in is the one in which we pay attention to each other. Where we see each other hurting and walk over so that no one has to sit in sadness alone. The world I want to live in is one where we recognize that what unites us is stronger than what divides us. This is your gentle reminder that it is our responsibility to recognize the humanity in each other.
The world I want to live in is the one where no one hurts alone.
Be a bridge.