Every Sunday night, I rush my children through bath and brushing teeth and books and into bed, I grab a beer, I adjust the bunny ears on the little postage-stamp television in my bedroom, I pat the covers next to me and invite Pup to snuggle up, and I tune in to the greatest soap opera of our time: Downton Abbey.
Like all great series, it can't go on forever - it's already pretty much jumped the shark, now that we're in the sixth and final season. But I'm as much a sucker for the lush Edwardian to-the-manner-born upstairs-downstairs drama as all the rest of America.
It seems like most Americans also have a big soft spot for Tom Branson, the chaffeur-turned-land-agent who married the Earl's beautiful youngest daughter, Sybil, who subsequently died giving birth to their daughter. Tom has many qualities that appeal to Americans: he's entrepreneurial, he's politically radical, he disregards the traditional class status of the British gentry, he was able to crack into their rarefied air sheerly on his own merit and personality (although purists would say he sold out). He's a favorite, for sure.
On last night's episode, Tom hears Lady Mary breaking off her relationship with racecar driver Henry Talbot, mostly because she is terrified that he will die in the same way as her first husband, Matthew Crawley (car wreck - I told you it's a huge soap opera). This is a perfectly reasonable fear, in my estimation. No one could blame Lady Mary for wanting to play it safe, when she has suffered as much as she did over Matthew's death.
But Tom comes with the most heartbreakingly beautiful insight: "You're frightened of being hurt again. But let me tell you this: you will be hurt again, and so will I, because being hurt is part of being alive."
How my heart leapt in agreement as I heard Tom utter those words!
Sometimes I teeter on the edge of terrible bitterness when I think of how much hurt my 31 years have contained. A divided home, abandonment, early death, addiction, divorce, heartbreak. It seems like way more than one person should have to bear. It can quickly spiral into self-pity, or a superiority complex, or any number of ugly ways that are essentially about protecting myself.
But . . . what a huge amount of life I have been privileged to experience already. God has entrusted me with the lessons gleaned from this suffering, and asked me to help gently share them with others. Being hurt is, indeed, part of being alive. Most of spend our whole lives trying to figure out how to prevent that truth from manifesting itself. What if, instead, we try to become "like water," as my best friend Amanda says? Allowing this hurt to flow through us, allowing it to ripple out and dissipate, but still changing the landscape in important ways?