1. The Hole We Poured Our Hearts Into
A few times in life, if we are lucky, we meet an opportunity that seems so right for us that we will pour our hearts out to get it. A life-changing something that will keep us up late, get us up early and make us dig deep to give our best 100 percent—and then go back to give more, just for insurance. When these big things don’t pan out, when we don’t get into the college, or make the team, or get the grant, or win the part, we are left with a wound in the shape of the thing we made a part of us, just by wanting it so badly.
But the hole fills— eventually in ways we can’t expect. We learn so much by giving our all that we are forever changed. We learn our limits and how to push through them—if only to help us with our next dream.
2. The Bruise of Rejection
As a kid, I was a train wreck as an athlete. I was gangly, uncoordinated and nervous. And I fell...a lot. By two weeks into the school year, everyone had learned the truth, and I became the very LAST kid to be picked—every time. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.
My husband says that’s nothing compared to asking a girl on a date and getting turned down or, worse, laughed at.
Part of life as a grown-up is being turned down and turned away. But early rejection can batter our ever-fragile egos in ways that could leave us playing injured or sitting on the bench throughout our lives. Being picked last for the fourth-grade kickball team, not being picked for the first summer job, or being dumped by the love of a lifetime are differently shaped bruises, but they hurt in the same place.
In living to tell about it, though, we learn not only how to withstand rejection but also how to hold and extend empathy for others who have been dismissed, overlooked or otherwise rejected.
3. The Coulda-Woulda-Shoulda Mistake We Can't Forgive Ourselves For
In our memory, it was perfect: that job, that relationship, that apartment. Except we goofed. We made a tiny error (on something we’d gotten right a thousand times before!). Or we flamed out massively due to one small miscalculation (if we’d just waited five more minutes...). And it aches every time we think of what we should have, could have and would have done differently to get and keep it.
The loss can pack a sting for years to come. Because, it seems, when we get something similar to the perfect thing that got away, we often can’t help but mess it up. We compare the real, wonderful thing we actually have to the imaginary perfect thing that got away, and we feel shortchanged.
This is a wound that hurts not only us but also the unsuspecting people who care about us. Imagine how it feels to be compared with the one that got away...being told how much better it was or could have been. This is one of those wounds it helps to be aware of so we can be sure to treat the people in our lives like grand prizes and first choices—and not like backup prom dates.
4. The Secret Under the Band-Aid
A neighbor friend often has a Band-Aid on the back of her hand, even though she has no sore there. “A bandage reminds me to protect my wounds. Today, my sore spot is my sister, who is fighting cancer,” she told me. “Wow,” I thought. Instead of trudging through the day with free-floating pain, wondering why she felt a bit fragile and tender, she just marked the wound and treated herself with TLC.
“And maybe it’s all in my head,” she said, “but wearing a bandage also makes me feel like other people are cutting me a little more slack.”
There it is, friends. How different might the world be if we saw one another’s sore spots? What if we remembered—even without seeing a bandage—that we are all walking wounded, and that a little attention, kindness and caretaking is always what the doctor orders.
Becky Blades is the author of Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone: Advice Your Mom Would Give If She Thought You Were Listening.