When I was in graduate school I worked at a shelter for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. One of my responsibilities was to take a shift operating the help-line overnight. The help-line was for anyone to call who needed to talk. There was this one woman who was a frequent caller. She would call at 3am and just sob and sob. I remember sitting on the other end of the line in the middle of the night and just listening to her raw pain. I have never forgotten it. I have been thinking of it lately as I talk to some of the people in my life. It seems like so many people have that raw pain inside them that they don’t let out very often but when they do it feels all-consuming. They are just swallowed up by it. Especially at 3am when they are alone. I do believe there is a way to heal that pain. All pain wants to be healed. Our natural state is joy and peace. I believe that. But it’s hard to communicate that to someone who is in the midst of their suffering. For a long time when I started to feel better about myself and had been steadily releasing my own pain and fear I felt like it was somehow wrong of me to be actively cultivating joy when people are so very sad. I had to allow myself to move beyond where a lot of the people in my life lived. That was hard, because I felt like I was abandoning them and that I was somehow saying I was better than them because I was choosing something different for myself. Sometimes it was hard to talk to my friends that were locked into the endless cycle of their hurt places. It got easier as I got better. Because I was able to recognize and acknowledge that hurt place in them but I stopped being afraid of going back to it anymore in myself. I have learned how to hold onto the quiet place inside my heart and for that I am thankful. I watch the people that I care about still hold on fiercely to their pain. So many of us are still in a place where we cling so desperately to the wounded places inside us that all we can do is sob to a stranger in the middle of the night. I believe we all have that pain. If not right now then somehow, sometime. It’s ours to hold but it is also ours to release. The path through the pain is also the path to freedom. I am not sure how to say this to the people who are still caught inside it. I am not sure anybody could have told me anything when I was caught there myself. I didn’t find the freedom that I have in my heart now right away. I had to move towards it conscious step by conscious step. I had to walk with it in my sights every day. It took a long time and a lot of dedication to myself. But I found something precious. And I believe it is here to stay, because it’s all mine. I believe everyone has that precious thing inside themselves. I believe everyone, no matter how big their hurt place, can find it. I think it starts with a single moment. A moment when you decide. When you are willing to look deeply into the hurt place and stop holding on and start releasing. A moment when you make a different choice for yourself. With that one decision, that one choice, life starts choosing you. My prayer is that we all find a soft place, even those of us with a well of pain that wants to consume us. May we all find a quiet place inside our heart that we can call our own. Blessed be.