Everything happens for the good. And you can’t quite get through Life unscathed.
I don’t mean to sound overtly philosophical or even euphemistic about our rather unique Life journeys where we may be singed by a health challenge or a relationship issue or the loss of a dear one or a career nightmare or a business crisis. Our stories may be different. But the thread that binds all our stories together holds a common theme – all the trauma that we may have to encounter and endure in Life always has a deeper reason for it to happen. And that reason is to make us stronger from the experience. Also, without exception, every dark night eventually makes way for a beautiful dawn.
A recent issue of TIME magazine has a story by author Jim Rendon who writes about how trauma changes people for the better. Rendon’s new book Upside: The New Science of Post-Traumatic Growth reveals that 75 % of people are affected by a traumatic phase at least once in their lives. He writes in TIME: “Post-traumatic growth can be transformative. Post-traumatic growth can be powerful. Many people I interviewed for my book told me that despite the physical pain they suffered, the daily struggles they faced, their lives were unquestionably better today than before their traumatic experiences. Trauma sent them on a path they never would have found otherwise.”
I can completely relate to this view. This has, in fact, been my experience too.
Just 12 years ago, I used to be perpetually angry with myself and the world around me. My business was under stress then, but there was business – work and income. I had clients and I led a team that operated in six cities in India. But I was neither happy nor content. I worked 16-hour days and worked on weekends too. I had a tobacco habit and drank daily. And then in end-2007, early-2008, my whole world fell apart. My Firm went bankrupt and I became insolvent. In the years that followed, my family and I have been through some indescribable times – often penniless; no work, no clients, no staff, no offices, no business, no money!
A couple of years ago, I was talking to my friend about the experience I was undergoing as a parent when I could not buy my dear daughter a new set of clothes as her old ones were worn out. My friend, quoting (I think so; disclaimer: I am not an expert in Tamil literature, I can’t read or write the language.) from the Tamil epic Kamba Ramayanam said, “Kadan Petrar Nenjam Pola” – denoting the ache in the heart of a man in debt. I know my pain pales in significance in front of someone who has lost a child or who is dying of a rare cancer or who has been convicted for a crime that they did not commit (like the Talwar couple). But trauma is trauma. Pain is pain. Whatever be the reason, whoever causes it, whichever way it happens, the way pain overtakes our lives and drives us to dead-ends and tests every sinew – that experience is the same for everyone. Pain cannot be avoided. It is inevitable. But you can avoid the suffering if you stop asking why there is pain – and stop asking why you have to encounter pain.
My problems are far from over. But because I have learnt not to suffer, I have discovered that the trauma, the pain, doesn’t affect me anymore. Yes it is difficult, at times excruciatingly difficult, to get through some situations. But because I don’t suffer, I am at peace with the way my Life is. There is complete chaos around me, in my world. But I have learnt to anchor within and maintain and preserve my inner equilibrium. I face Life every day with renewed vigor and pour my heart into whatever I am doing to get the business and our lives back on track. Important, I am no longer angry – with myself or my circumstances. I am a firm believer that this too shall pass.
This transformation in me has happened only because of the experience of abject penury that I have been through. In a material sense my family and I have lost everything. And we have a mountain of debt to repay. But I am grateful, just as many of the people Rendon interviewed for his book have revealed, for the Life-changing crisis that I have been through. I have now come to realize that extra-ordinary pain always leads you to experience extra-ordinary grace if you are willing to accept the pain and go with the flow of Life! Your problems may not always go away, but your ability to deal with the improves dramatically if you can handle pain and avoid the suffering!