We human beings are not so good at being with each other in hard times. I get it, it's scary and makes us anxious and really it's just so much easier to scroll through Facebook. But, it really matters, this reaching out to each other. And please don't say it will all work out when you do.
Picture yourself in your personal moment of struggle. Big or small struggle, either will work. Let's say you've been working your tail off at your job for several years. You've received stellar evaluations and you're a solid contributor. There's an opening for a management position and you are one of two contenders. And the position is given to your colleague, who is more of a "team player". After hearing this news from your boss you walk to the office kitchen to take a breath and get a drink of water. You bump into a colleague who asks excitedly whether you've heard yet about the position. You tell him the news, I wasn't chosen, tears stinging the corner of your eyes. And he replies with: don't worry, things have a way of working themselves out.
Yes, I know this has happened to you because it's happened to all of us. Yes, I am as guilty for saying these platitudes as the person next to me.
Have you ever been inside a neonatal intensive care unit? Despite having worked in medicine for years, the first time I visited the NICU was when I was 30 weeks pregnant with my son, who was destined for the cardiac version of the NICU. As we entered the ward, it literally took my breath away. This is truly a place where life hangs in the balance. Life is suspended for the families living here. While the rest of us wave goodbye to the bus, sit in traffic, hit send on another email, their lives revolve around a tiny little being in a huge bed, surrounded by stacks and stacks of monitors and machines. That mom sitting next to that baby? She hasn't slept in her own bed in weeks and has no clue whether, when she finally does get back to that bed, there will be a baby in the bassinet beside her. That mom has heard it's going to be okay more times that she can count.
We say this because we don't know what else to say. But sometimes we say this to create a distance between ourselves and the struggle because we don't want to get too close. Struggle is messy, uncomfortable, and very, very scary.
That mom in the NICU needs us. That moment in the kitchen with your colleague is a chance for connection, a chance to be seen. How about: that's really hard or I wish it had turned out differently or I'm here for you, I believe in you.
The truth is, that deep down, I do believe it is going to be okay. But it might be a long time before it gets there. So in the meantime, take a breath and say something to create connection instead of creating distance. It doesn't have to be perfect and we can mess up along the way, but we'll never get there if we don't give it a try.