No one on Earth is immune to misery. Not one of us. But, how you spend your misery is something you can control. Let’s face it: we all have times in our lives when we feel miserable. Situations in life cause us to feel sad, depressed, and angry or an overall feeling of suffering. This is inescapable. But how we react, how we process, how we proceed… all of these things we can control; all of these things can take us from miserable to better.
This is my practical guide to misery, just for you. Yes, I’ve experience misery myself, sometimes so badly that I was sure I’d entered the depths of hell. It is only this that qualifies me to write this article, nothing more, and nothing less. Even given my limited expertise, I think this is applicable to us all.
1. Process with a purpose
During college, a close friend went through a break up. (I think a lot of us did, really.) She was devastated. She did everything she could think of to move on: go on other dates, have fun with friends, exercise, throw herself in to school and even study abroad. Despite her efforts, her misery lingered. We talked about it almost every day. We replayed their recent encounters; we analyzed every word, every text, and every email and then did it again. And again. Some people would have gotten sick of going through that, and wouldn’t have let so much time go on but I knew there was a bigger reason. She was processing so thoroughly because she never wanted to go through that again. She wanted to see every mistake. She needed to know that she missed the signs and didn’t listen to the people who warned her. Every time we talked about it, she learned a little bit more about herself. It took months, but she worked through it. After it all, she was thankful for the experience and thankful that it didn’t work out. The misery didn’t last, but the purpose she found, that she could get through anything and that she would find love, that did last. She processed that misery and became the woman she needed to be to find the man who was her soul mate. Now, they are happily married. All the feels, I’d say.
Moral of the story? It is okay to wallow. Suffer through those tough times with purpose, though. Don’t think that going over something every which way in your head is pointless, unless you aren’t learning. Let the crap that happened, and the pain that it caused, be your teacher. Mold that energy; process until the pain ceases and in its’ place, you have purpose.
2. Keep Going
Have you ever gone to a haunted house? They are the worst! For my best friend’s birthday (when we were like 13) she insisted that we go to a haunted house. Six of us girls in our awkward early teen stage got dropped off by her mom (cool, I know). We got our tickets and proceeded to the entry room. There they played a quick clip about the house we were in, how something terrible happened, and we would experience the horror that remained. I was not excited. The birthday girl led the way and in we went. Scary things popped out, we went through rooms that were pitch black, fake smoke was billowing out of the walls and we were a pre-teen screaming and huddling mess. But, we couldn’t turn around. It was a one way street. No matter how we screamed, how frightened we were, or even when one of us broke down crying (spoiler, it was me), we could not turn back. The only way out was through.
Life is so much like that. Misery, in particular, feels like a haunted house we can’t escape. We can’t see the end and can’t predict how long it will last; all we can do is keep going. And my tools for getting through that haunted house have come in handy in life: Cling to those you love. Hold tight to the people who support you, who are going to walk right alongside you through that terrible mess. Do not forget that the true source of light is not outside you, but right in your heart. Cry when you need to. And above all, keep going. In the midst of that scary dark place, you cannot see ahead to know that you are making progress, that you are heading for something easier. Don’t let that stop your progress. The only way out is through. Keep going. I promise it will get easier.
3. Let it change you
Read this one carefully: let your misery change you. But (and this is a big but), let it change you for the better.
Do you love coffee? Cause, me too. I read a story once about a daughter who was going through a hard time. Her mother sat her down in the kitchen and boiled water to cook eggs, carrots and coffee. They eggs started fragile on the inside and became hardened. The carrots started hard and then softened. But the coffee changed the water entirely. All three things faced the same adversity, the boiling water, but only the coffee was completely changed.
This is how misery should change you. You are going to go through that black mess, and you can come out on the other side with a hardened heart or a self deprecating weakness, or you can change. We will all go through a black mess at some point. But we don’t all let it change us for the better. I hope that you choose to be like that delicious coffee. Let that black mess change you into something amazing!
Misery is not optional. No matter the gravity, we all experience it in some form. But how we work through it can make the difference between having a miserable life or having a life well lived, even in the midst of misery. How will you spend your misery?