It’s that time of year again, where gratitude is in abundance as we’re reminded and inspired to count our blessings. But, do you ever feel like there’s only room to appreciate the joy in life? That we automatically lean on the bright side of things for the sake of being optimistic? Do you feel pressured to only emphasize the love you’re lucky enough to find or the exciting experiences you still can’t believe you’ve had?

Do you ever feel like we ignore the battles we’ve fought or lost?

I’m as supportive of happy endings and fairytale feelings as the next girl, but I’m also a firm believer in struggle being part of the story. Paying homage to the hardships we’ve faced and embracing the difficulties and discomfort life hands us is just as beneficial as highlighting our happiness. The devastation and defining moments that hurt are just as worthy of our respect.

Acknowledging the suffering — the aching that shakes our bones and the thunder in our hearts — is an invitation to triumph. Only when we sift through the wreckage of pain, hold it in our hands, and give it some credit for our current bliss can we begin to live.

Whatever it is that makes it hard to get out of bed in the morning, or to smile at a stranger, or to avoid crying in your car in the parking lot before work again might be too much. More than devastating or overwhelming. I know you might feel shattered and detached, but did you know that’s literally how a star is born?

… you might feel shattered and detached, but did you know that’s literally how a star is born?

You start with this intergalactic space of gas and dust, this intense, consuming emptiness. Then, you have to collapse and condense; you go through this phase of shrinking and being entirely destroyed. There’s shock and pressure and heat for years.

Until one day you’re blinking above the whole world and you’re the one we’re all wishing on.

I see you there already. And you’re shining. And the life you’re living — not the one you imagined for yourself, the one you thought would be better or easier or fuller by now, I’m talking about this one in this stretch of sky right here — is beautiful. It’s exactly where you’re supposed to be. Because isn’t it the grief, uneasiness and imperfections that ultimately lead to the connections and strength we rely on?

I’m not saying everything happens for a reason. Maybe everything just happens. And “everything” has to include pain and confusion and tears, but it won’t last. The screaming you can’t deal with anymore, the sinking feeling that a new, strange city gives you, the defeat you face in the mirror daily — it’s all temporary.

That breakup is one step closer to the person who will be waiting for you at the end of the aisle someday. The house that doesn’t feel like home yet can be, if you let a friend inside. And for every fault you internalize, that stranger you had trouble smiling at before could find just as many positive traits you ignored. Maybe we can only be perfect in another’s eyes. Maybe together we can realize we’re so much more than the flaws we let ourselves be defined by.

Given enough time, the transitional phases we wrestle with eventually prove that there’s a beauty in the breaking of people, places and things. That these sharp, jagged pieces of ourselves fit just as exactly into the puzzle of our journey as the smoother bits do.

Our edges — the framework of a life — don’t have to be straight lines. They can be messy, blurred, flawed strokes, exquisite in their own right.

So, let’s take a moment to recognize the distress and misfortune we’ve combated with, the drawbacks and quiet tragedies that have gripped us. Let’s value the essential, darker depths of being human. Indeed, these too are the moments that shape us, the obstacles we must overcome before reaching that brighter existence we’re so keen on admiring.

As Mary Oliver wrote,

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.

How have the darker moments better enabled your shine?

Image via Stefania Jane


  1. Thank you so much for this article. I really just needed to read this. It really is important to value and love every moment and experience that has shaped our lives, even the ones that left our hearts shattered. (Only to be thankful to come up again.) Thank you. <3

  2. So well said. I think I will be constantly learning how to hold both the so very sad things and the so very good things in my life at the same time. I love the line, “I’m not saying everything happens for a reason, maybe everything just happens.” Life is messy and hard sometimes. Thank you for sharing.

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