All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
– William Shakespeare
Over the course of 40 or so years, I gradually came to the belief that people enter our lives for a reason. Lately, I have become increasingly convinced of an extension of that belief that’s been nibbling around the edges of my consciousness for the past year or so: The reason that people enter our lives is to help us heal.
“Healing” can take on forms as varied as those who come to help us achieve it. They can literally be healers: doctors, nurses, chiropractors, psychiatrists, intuitives. But more often, they are friends or strangers who wander through our lives, then exit, stage left, their purpose fulfilled. Whether they are with us for a moment or a lifetime, I believe that they almost never know or understand the part that they have played in our journey toward wholeness. Often, neither do we.
I have been putting a lot of effort into the attempt. The friend who criticizes, protests and then ignores provides an “aha” in-the-moment flashback to the true effects of a childhood psychic scar not completely understood before. The unattainable love establishes that “single” does not mean “undesirable.” The emotionally unstable colleague is the first to hammer home that it really isn’t me – it’s her. And so on.
These teachers arrived at my doorstep unheralded and in guises unrecognized. They have made me angry and sad, guilty and conflicted. It took me a very long time to understand that these were not burdens but blessings; not emotional anvils but precious gifts. All of those insights have been won at a high cost. Yet looking back, I know that what they taught was well worth any price I paid.
While I’m sure that other painful lessons lie on the road ahead, I have arrived in calmer waters, surrounded mostly by those whose healing is more straightforward, who guide with gentle wisdom or support with laughter and unrestrained cheerleading. I think that my progress must be improbably visible to others, like watching a seedling’s growth captured in fast-motion photography. The gifts from each of these players carry no cost but gratitude. It’s a welcome respite.