Suffering threatens to make life meaningless. That is its greatest danger, not the pain it inflicts. It is up to each of us to restore meaning. Doctors cannot do it for us with their medicine; friends cannot do it for us with their solace and comfort. You are healed when you can say to yourself, “I matter, I belong, I am worthy, I am safe, I can express myself, I am loved.
My friend is mourning the end of her marriage. Her husband of 12 years has moved on with another woman. She, more inclined to self-reflection than he, recently wondered aloud whether the marriage had meant anything to him. Though she by now recognizes his patterns – he needs the adoration of women like the rest of us need food and water – in her darker moments, the loss threatens to make her marriage seem meaningless. What, she wondered, was the point?
Plenty of us have been there. In the wake of another's tragedy, our lives seem small. Our concerns seem petty. In the wake of our own tragedy, our lives, for a moment seem epic. Our pain is momentous. But when the drama begins to shrink and our healing begins, it can all seem so...mundane. Meaningless. We sift through the memories and wonder if they're real. We pour over the photo album and try to discern the other's thoughts. Was this when he fell out of love with me? Was he really there or was his mind somewhere else?
Meaning in our lives doesn't come from another deciding we mean something to him. It comes from knowing that we have a place in this world. It comes from our deeper knowing that we have value, no matter whether anyone else in the world sees it. I've said it before: A diamond is still a diamond even when another sees only a stone. Our every breath is sacred.
Meaning doesn't come from drama. It isn't about feeling important. It isn't about feeling joy. Meaning is found in every moment, those of excruciating pain and those of bliss. It's about living with intention. It's about trusting ourselves. It's about loving ourselves.
It always come down to that: We must love ourselves no matter what. We must come to that deep knowing of our worth, of our belonging, of our meaning.