A friend was telling me Wednesday afternoon about some terrible pain she’s going through. A long-term relationship ended for her not long ago and she’s hurting.
She knows the relationship needed to end, but she’s still devastated and hurt. It’s hard to adjust to the change. Everything feels wrong. She feels empty and alone. And she fears she might always be alone.
As I considered the hurt she was experiencing, I found myself thinking — not for the first time — that human life would be so much easier if we didn’t experience emotions.
Things would feel so much better for her — at least for right now — if she didn’t have to feel anything. If emotions just didn’t exist. She could live her normal life. She could feel better about her future. She could see herself as I see her — as a smart and beautiful woman with whatever future she wants to have.
But, instead, she is in the depths of despair.
Her story isn’t any different from what most of us have experienced. Just this week, I’ve dealt with two other friends going through painful breakups. One young woman I know had a boyfriend — who was telling her days before that he wanted to marry her — dump her in a parking lot without any real explanation. A man I know found out his wife was cheating on him and he was left devastated and wondering if he’ll ever recover from the betrayal he feels.
I’ve experienced all sorts of hurts and rejections, too, so I understand the way my friends feel. I’ve spent weeks or months in depression or semi-depression after losing love that I thought I could count on. There is no betrayal in the world that hurts that badly, at least to me.
And when I have gone through that, I’ve found myself wishing I could be numb. Maybe you have, too, when you’re hurting.
But even if that were possible, it would be terrible in the long run — because our feelings define who we are as human beings.
The experience of intense emotions makes me feel alive. Finding ways to express that emotion — especially when there’s the chance to express it as love for someone I care about intensely — is incredibly joyful for me.
I can’t imagine living without that joy.
Unfortunately, I don’t know any way to experience love without also experiencing the hurt that comes with loss. I don’t know of a way to experience joy without also having to experience the pain of betrayal as well. I don’t know of any way to experience any of the emotions that I so desperately need and crave without also having to experience the ones that destroy me when I have to experience them.
That fact can make life in the short run horribly painful, but the flip side of the pain is the love and joy and peace we feel when we experience the best parts of being human.
The downside of our emotions can be horrible, but the upside can make it worth all of the pain — even if it doesn’t feel that way while we’re going through it.
For my friends who are hurting this week — and even for myself as I work through loss and loneliness — all I can say is that the intensity of joy when the emotions are good makes the pain worth the toll it takes.
Love and connection define who we are as human beings. They make all the hurt worth it when love and connection finally return.
I wouldn’t want to live any other way.