I’ve been regaling pretty much anyone who will listen lately about my adventures in reading the letters of Mary Todd Lincoln. For the last few days I’ve been trudging through Mary’s first year of widowhood. Her letters are filled with wishes that she would die so that she could join her husband. I don’t have the letters she received (she apparently burnt most of the letters she got) but one can imagine her friends trying to cheer her up with reminders of family life and holidays. She would hear none of it. In fact, Mary wrote to one friend whose husband was dying, “I wish I had had the chance to nurse my husband through a long illness. One final word would have meant so much.” Notes about Christmas inspired Mary to write about how miserable her Christmas was going to be. Notes of condolence just seemed like an open invitation for her to go on about how she wanted to die. No one was more alone than she.
If there is one thing I have learned in my time here on Earth, it’s that everybody has a story – at least one. Even the people who seem the happiest have a story they might sit down to tell you during a late-night talk. Everyone has something in their lives that is a tender spot, and it is a spot that can be poked without anyone realizing what they are doing.
When we are in the throes of something painful, whatever it might be, it is very easy to feel isolated and alone. It seems like everybody has the thing we have lost. It seems like everybody is enjoying what we’re lamenting. It seems everybody is taking for granted that which we want most. It was easy for Mary to feel that, having lost two sons and a husband, she was the most cursed woman walking the face of the earth, and yet one of her dear friends had lost six children. Two of her friends, in the course of a year, also lost their husbands. The details were different, but had Mary chosen, she could have come together with those women and learned from them, and they might have learned from her. She might not have felt so alone.
When that tender part of your heart is stabbed (and that can happen SO easily here in the online world, where words are thrown carelessly about), try your hardest to avoid the downward spiral that convinces you that you are alone. You are not alone. And if you are going through something awful just now, as you are reading this, you are not alone. And people are not purposefully trying to make that tender spot bleed.
Do not lock yourself behind a dark veil and closed doors when you go through a hard time. Do not convince yourself you are alone by creating a reality in which you physically are alone. There is not a person who has walked your exact path, but there are people who have walked paths that are very similar. They are walking them now. You may not be able to see them because they might feel alone too, but they are there. Reach out and grab a hand. Reach out and tell a piece of your story. You might be surprised to find how far from alone you really are.
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