I know. Life is too hard.
I really do know. There was a time when I longed to be dead. I know what its like to see with overwhelming certainty that life is too hard to go on.
I get it.
So bear with me for a sec while I tell you how I recovered. And know that I am not here to sell you anything. There’s no magic formula to rescue you from the pains of existence. If the only thing you take from this post is a connection to someone who has felt your angst, take comfort in that if you can.
Life IS too hard.
The first time I felt the keen longing to vanish from the Earth was during an NLP practitioner training.
You may have heard of neuro-linguistic programming. Or Tony Robbins, the personal power guru? Yeah, I was stoked to take NLP. I saw all those killer personal growth techniques as potential salvation. Little did I know that half-way through my training I would collapse on the floor and long to be removed from this earth.
I was 22 years old. I’m 51 as of this writing.
I survived. I’m glad I did, as so many of my goals in life (so far) have been met. But I’ll never forget the deep knowing that life is too hard for me. I simply could not imagine going on. I couldn’t even pick myself off the training room floor. The trainer had to intervene, as my class companions quietly freaked out.
Here’s how my death wish exploded to the surface.
That weekend of the NLP training was focused on metaphors. Metaphors, analogies, etc…
Life is like a…
- Bowl of cherries
You get it.
People in the training were coming up with all kinds of positive, empowering life metaphors, but I was drawing blanks. Then, we engaged in another metaphorical activity: Talk about a song or poem that has significance to you. The song Puff, the Magic Dragon came to mind.
It was a childhood favorite. I LOVED it, listening to Puff over and over on my .45 record player. Yet, talking about that song during the small group exercise in NLP training, I lost it. Grief and pain and loneliness overwhelmed me. The tears come from nowhere and I simply collapsed on the floor and wanted to stop existing.
Life is too hard. Life is too HARD. The words echoed in my mind.
Next thing I knew, the head trainer was sitting next to me.
The others in my group huddled nearby.
“What’s going on, Mike?”
It was Tim Hallbom. “Mike, do you want to talk about it?”
Yet, over the next hour, Tim got through to me and I spilled my guts, learning what was going on inside me as the words poured from my mouth.
Little Jackie Gleason. The boy in the song. He loved Puff, but by the end of the song, he lost his best friend. That was it. Grief and loss. But what had I lost as a child? To one part of me, I’d lost everything I’d hoped for. Love, safety, guidance – a family to care for me and take an interest. This part of me was reeling in pain. Now, it was making itself known.
And that was the first day of the rest of my life.
No more denial. No pretending to be bulletproof, above it all. I had issues. Over the years, my personal struggles have led to me discover deeper ways of working with people. On a mission to understand and heal various conflicts in my own soul, I’ve learned and developed ways to help others do the same.
It’s a journey fraught with emotional hazards. Life is hard because it wasn’t meant to be easy. It is what it is. What are you going to do with it? Here are a few suggestions:
- Accept that life is difficult. And read The Road Less Traveled.
- Learn to see your own struggles in other people. We’re in this together.
- Turn toward your angst, not away from it. You can handle it.
- Talk to someone – a therapist or life coach.
- Get training. You’re uniquely qualified to help others when you know your own pain.
I was at a Robert Dilts training sometime after my NLP practitioner training – Tools of the Spirit. Robert is a big deal in NLP – one of the originators. With some trepidation, I approached him on a break and confessed that, while his methods were great, I was still struggling with some deep, family-oriented issues.
Robert didn’t skip a beat. “Welcome to the club!” he said as he threw his arms around me in a giant bear hug. Of all the responses I imagined from Robert Dilts, this was the last thing that might have occurred to me. Of all the fancy NLP moves that Robert is capable of making, he did the most impactful thing imaginable. He connected with me in total acceptance.
That simple interaction with Robert has stayed with me for over thirty years, providing a sense of acceptance and relief every time I’ve remembered it.
The bottom line.
Never give up. Share your story with people you trust and respect. Seek to turn your issues into learning experiences that create value for others.