Living Is an Endeavor We Mustn’t Take on Alone

THE ROOTS OF WORDS travel deep into the past, like the roots of trees which travel deep into the soil that is home.

To understand the essence of a word takes looking at the word from the surface and how it’s used now — like the leaves of a tree which lend beauty to the Earth. Yet there’s more to a word than what’s on the surface.

A word’s intricate roots below the surface connect to history, to the original source of language, and to a well of knowledge and life.

The poet Jane Hirshfield writes in her article “Poetry, Permeability, and Healing,” that at the root of the words healing and health “is the idea of wholeness.”


I think of wholeness as a circle reconnecting; perhaps the facets of the self finding the inner harmony that a child is born with.


As a child, the mind, body, and soul intertwine before we bear the weight of living. But we need that burden to bear, as what often takes also creates. We aren’t developed as a child — we haven’t experienced the full breadth of existence nor the possibilities that will come.

The forward progress of life might weigh us down, but it also strengthens as we confront that energy, we match it, and we grow.

To be alive is a striving to become whole again; not a return to the naivety of a child, but a different type of wholeness that a healing soul exemplifies.

As we progress and continue to find harmony within ourselves, we may even heal the world in the process.

Harmony like the silence of dawn amid towering trees, where the energy is palpable, the roots run deep, the forest feels alive. We mustn’t try to forget our past to become whole again.

Our past is part of the healing process; what we’ve endured makes us who we are, able to withstand future adversity like trees grown strong from roots which grab a hold deep within the Earth.


We don’t live compartmentalized lives, writes Hirschfield, a sentiment which relates to the thoughts I’ve been considering for the last several years about seeking harmony within myself. What constitutes all that I am?

Are the mind, body, and soul separate parts of a single whole?

Is the solitary I something separate from we? As individuals we feel pain; we go through challenging experiences and seasons.

It can feel like the pain is a burden we must take on alone.

The worry, anxiety, the fracture of our self weighs heavily on our shoulders, and we feel split from the rest of the world.

But we aren’t simply an individual I. Perhaps we see ourselves this way, but to reconnect, to complete the circle takes finding harmony amongst all of life, not only the facets of our individual being.

Personally I believe we’re a part of something incomprehensible, as each of us connects to one another like cells in the human body. To heal as an individual — to become whole — takes connecting with nature, the source of life, and one another.

You don’t hurt alone. I don’t hurt alone. We mustn’t heal alone.


Poetry, Hirshfield states, can be a part of that healing. I believe that too, as poetry is a means of connection to an abounding source of life.

Poems can be found, if they're looked for, addressing every realm of what in our lives can feel broken: the heart's injuries in the realms of intimate connection, in love, in friendship, in family,

Hirshfield writes.

The sense of isolation and separation from one's own participation in existence. The evasion of death, which is ultimately an evasion of life.

To become whole is not to forget or to ignore what’s been endured.

It’s respecting, perhaps even honoring that part of one’s being that has endured the trials of life. The fear, the setbacks, the obstacles which at one point held us down, now embolden our spirit.

Perhaps with each challenge overcome, we’re more able, permeable, to let life flow through us like a porous stone in the center of a flowing river.

We surrender, and let the good and the bad travel through our being without being knocked too far off of center.


It’s hard for us to surrender anything.

The word has a negative connotation, as if when we surrender we’re losing something important. But surrendering is letting go of what no longer serves us. We allow new life in, fresh water which renews our spirit.

As we become increasingly human — vulnerable, brave — we become more beautiful in the process from the inside out. We’re all dealing with something, and to connect through our challenges makes living a compelling adventure we mustn’t endure alone.

There is solace in recognizing that whatever happens to a person, someone before us has known it as well,

Hirshfield writes.

Poetry's evidence tells us that we are not singled out by our suffering; we are brought into the shared life of all who have lived and died before and with us.

Through practices like journaling, it can feel like our thoughts are novel, our problems are insurmountable, or at least enough to keep us up at night.

But those same words that spill from a wrestling heart arise somewhere on another page, like ink that’s bled through to elucidate our unseen connections.

Still, journaling, writing, life, can feel like a solitary endeavor.

And in a sense, it is.

Nobody must know my insecurities or doubts, my shame; even my smallest victories that I write on the page. Nobody knows the thoughts that I interact with on a daily basis.

Until they’re shared; until I speak my mind and attempt to break through the veil which we call routine.

Perhaps to keep our thoughts, our troubles, our fear for ourself is to deprive another soul who only needs to see that somebody else is healing, too. Writing is healing, sharing is courageous, living is an endeavor we mustn’t take on alone.

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