Break yourself (open)

At times, we all get laid out by life.

Coach Will here. I lost a close family friend recently, and the experience punched me. It reminded me of one of life’s non-negotiables.

At one point or another, again and again, life will serve us up a healthy plate of crap, of unfair, of what-the-fck. It’s part of the cycle of things, but the loss still causes pain; occasionally, the forest burns.

It hurts like hell. It leaves coarse scars on our psyche, and can torture us by following even into our dreams and our big decisions (not to mention our relationships and our health).

And... like any other natural process, the occurrence of trauma is just a single component of the slow, flowing rhythm of getting hurt and healing.

These moments can strike when they’re least expected, but also when they are. And they actually hurt, like sickness or violence, even as they lurk in our thoughts.

They impact what we feel in our bodies, and how we feel about the world. They shape our attention, and can define our lives.

Flipping through YouTube recently (I’m not proud...but always interesting to see what the Algorithm thinks I like :), I came across David Brooks talking about his new book, the Second Mountain.

In the interview, he recounts his recent social isolation, divorce, and disorientation as a conservative in the Trump era, and how his struggles led him to look for the kind of people in society who seem to have mastered the overcoming of pain.

In each instance, he recognized how they universally turned toward their community, and became “weavers” of essential social fabric that has been so completely shredded in recent years (according to Brooks).

In these moments of loss, Brooks’ weavers faced the crossroads of becoming Broken (turning toward fear, and further isolation), or of Breaking Open (and vulnerably, deliberately living with those around you).

The distinction struck me.

Of course, I think about stress all the time.

In the gym, stress (in the right amounts) builds us up, makes us stronger and more mobile--so I fully support it. But in regular life, stress (in constant amounts) dulls recovery and gradually breaks us down--so I adamantly preach against it.

But now, when we talk about the biggest stressors of life--the traumatic ones--it seems there’s no argument: when pain happens (and it always will)--when you crack--you either resist vulnerability, or you become vulnerable.

You’re either Broken, or Broken Open.

The distinction can make all the difference, but it’s not an easy shift to see in the moment. In the depths of suffering, up is down, and down is sideways; the choice to move forward, step-by-step, can feel delusional.

But sharing what you’re going through with those you are close to means that others can know, and share the burden of, what you’re feeling. In this way, the community we weave is the basket that holds us together.

However you may have been broken--and we all have been at one time or another--I’m thinking about you now, as I write this.

I’m wishing you more joy, and less suffering.

Have a golden week…

- Coach Will