Sometimes I’m a little slow. There are some well-worn truisms that I haven’t thought were all that insightful and then once they apply to me, they suddenly have meaning. Perhaps that’s how it is for all of us. After my very sad post last week, I had a series of freeing insights that would not have been possible without my grief. There were so many that I even had to make a list to keep track of them! These new ways of looking at things brought relief and freedom, but wouldn’t have been possible without the preceding pain.
Is that the way life works? One has to suffer before growing? Is a forest fire required before new growth can begin?
I Googled the phrase “when something good comes out of something bad.” Lo and behold, there are many proverbs or sayings that summarize this concept. They included:
“The storm before the calm.”
“There is no rose without a thorn.”
“It’s always darkest before the dawn.”
“When God closes a door, he opens a window.”
I’m not sure why this equation is such. I can speculate that perhaps one has to be pushed beyond regular limits to be willing to look at things in a new way. Comfortable is nice. In fact, I’ll take comfort over discomfort any day. I don’t go camping for that very reason. But comfort may lead to complacency and complacency usually doesn’t lend itself to seeing things with a fresh perspective.
Coincidentally, today at lunch I was visiting with the guest speaker at the meeting I was attending. Almost out of the blue, he brought up the phrase, “post-traumatic growth” and proceeded to explain that it was exactly everything I have just written about above. Beyond the proverbs, there’s a technical name for this. I had no idea this was an official concept!
This past weekend I went out of town, which was also another chance to look at things differently. Saturday evening I went to a concert by my favorite singer, Carrie Newcomer at a downtown Minneapolis church. I hadn’t seen her in concert since the mid ‘90s, but have many of her CDs. Her lyrics amaze me.
I went alone, but didn’t feel alone. The last thing I wanted to do is to talk a friend or my husband into going to a concert by a folk singer who sings spiritual-but-not-religious songs. That’s not everybody’s cup of tea.
The crowd was made up of sincere, educated Midwesterners. The woman in front of me was wearing a wooden barrette with small strings of wooden beads hanging off of it. I noticed that a lot of folks were wearing glasses. I dug my glasses out from the bottom of my purse and put them on. I can see so much better when I wear them anyway. Like me, I bet most of my fellow-concertgoers had public radio and food co-op memberships. I fit right in.
It was a fantastic concert; I knew all the words to all of the songs that weren’t on her newly released album. I chatted with my fellow listeners. I stood smiling outside of the church as I waited for my Uber driver to find me in the midst of the heavy construction in downtown Minneapolis.
The next morning, I had lunch with a friend I first met when I was in 5th grade. It’s always a delight to see her. She is inquisitive, has a kind heart and a super sense of humor. Then I drove to northern Minneapolis and went to a Celebration of Life gathering for a cousin that passed away this winter from a kidney disease. It was a sad occasion, but I was glad to see some of my other cousins, my Aunt and relatives.
My weekend away was a chance to look at things from a different perspective. It was rejuvenating and refreshing. Combine that with my earlier new insights and I felt peaceful relief.
No Way Around It
I wish there was a way to grow without pain. Maybe there is. The fact that grieving can lead to new insights is no comfort in the midst of grief. However, it would be worse if grieving didn’t lead to new ways of looking at things. Then the pain would be wasted.
I wouldn’t trade my newfound perspectives for anything. I wish they didn’t come at such a high price, but I don’t get to write the rules. I am grateful and pleased.