The Secret Hope of Letting Our Miseries Be Miserable

A woman sitting at a bus stop. It's dark all around here, there is a pool of light over her and she is bent over with her head in her hands. Her hair covers her entire face.
Photo by Edwin Andrade.

I recently had a dear friend over. We drank Baileys, which I always crave around Christmas, and caught up on the joys and miseries of our lives. (We are both fairly dramatic people, so things are generally amazing or horrific, or often, both.)

When it was over, I realized that one thing she and I are particularly good at is letting each others' miseries be miserable without needing to transform them into something happier.

Maybe it's because we originally bonded in our early twenties over our shared depression (thank goodness we also both had the motivation to work through that), but we are both entirely comfortable with hearing the other one share some terrible circumstance and have no need to make it better. Instead, we just agree with how much it suuuuuuucks.

For example, we chatted for a bit about how we are approaching 40. (Her ahead of me, ha ha!) We talked about how, when we were in our twenties we thought 30 was going to be this big, scary thing, and then it turned out to be great, so the same thing would probably happen with 40, except we would be more tired more often.

Then I realized that, in terms of my relationship/love/family life, a realistic best-case scenario for my 40th birthday is that I'm bouncing a 1-year-old baby. Or, equally realistically, still single. I was instantly exhausted by both possibilities.

Her response?

"Yeah, that sounds terrible."

That sentence was like a hug.

She didn't try to reframe it. She didn't try to convince me that it would somehow be less tiring to have a baby at 40 or that singleness is a constantly beautiful state of freedom and bliss (which seems to be the response married folk are mandated to give their single friends whenever they dare complain about being on their own). She just agreed with me.

What a gift to have a friend who can let the hard things just be hard.

Letting hard things be hard isn't just about negativity. There is actually a lovely hope buried underneath. If you can let life's crappy situations be what they are without a desperate need to reframe or diminish them, it means that somewhere inside you know that you aren't so fragile that they will break you. That you have security in the beauty and strength that exists elsewhere in life and don't need to frantically point to it to distract yourself from whatever hurtful, ugly thing is right in front of you.

Since this is the season of both hard and beautiful things, it's worth remembering this: recognizing the terribleness of terrible things doesn't diminish the wonder of wonderful things. Of course, it's healthy and hopeful and healing to focus as much attention as possible on the good in our lives: to remember that we are loved, that we are good, that we are worthy. But you don't have to pretend the hard things aren't there.

Let the hard things be hard. Let the beautiful things be beautiful. Live your hard and beautiful life.

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