We like to believe that every cloud has a silver lining and after a storm there will be a rainbow. We want to believe in the cliché ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. It helps us make sense of adversity in our lives and give meaning to bad experiences. It’s probably more accurate to think ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you you’. As many a philosopher has said, we are the sum total of our experiences. For our bad experiences to make us stronger we sometimes need to look really hard. Often only time and distance allow us to feel the benefit of enduring tough times.
While a storm is raging everything is menacing, dangerous and on edge. Nothing is safe or secure and there is no way of knowing what will survive. The only thing we know for sure, even if we don’t believe it at the time, is that like everything, it will come to an end. This too shall pass. Eventually the clouds will lift, the swirling winds will still and the sun will come out. Light will follow darkness, revealing a cleansed and renewed landscape or spotlighting damage and devastation.
Sometimes there is no rainbow after the storm, just seeming chaos in the wake of destruction. So how do you rebuild and look for the positives amongst the ruins? It might seem almost impossible to even know where to begin. The first thing is to remember to make a start, no matter how small. It doesn’t matter where you start, you just need to start. And once you’ve started, little by little things should start to be less overwhelming.
Secondly, you don’t need to do it all on your own. No matter how happy and fortunate those around you seem it’s likely they have had a degree of adversity in their lives. So don’t be afraid to reach out to the people you trust. Ask yourself if you would be happy to help them in a crisis and apply your own values to your friends. Not all will understand but you only need one or two that do.
The Dalai Lama said, “When we meet real tragedy in life, we can react in two ways – either by losing hope and falling into self-destructive habits, or by using the challenge to find our inner strength”. Personally I think I’m particularly good at the option the Dalai Lama counsels against but maybe I should be more forgiving of myself. I have been in situations where I’ve had to rebuild from rubble. Did it all make me stronger? I doubt it. Some of it just made me what I am now. But some of it has made me stronger. I managed to find more inner strength than I thought I had at the time. And I bet you’ll find the same.
Even if you can’t see a rainbow look for one: you might just find one after all.