As I sat down at my desk this morning to write this week’s article, my phone buzzed with a new text message. It was from one of my dearest friends, informing me his son had shot himself in the early morning hours. Mind. Blank. That crushing feeling in your chest, as if the world somehow wound itself into a tight little ball and is spinning out of control, right up in your face. A sense there is a lack of oxygen in the room that leaves you with the inability to shed tears. Feeling pain inside, beyond the ability of tears, is difficult to put into words. But for those of you who have experienced it, you know exactly what I’m describing. My friend, he knows this feeling well and will be living in the deep chasm of it for many days to come. When we hear of tragedy, sadness, fatal accidents, sorrow, terminal illness and the like, we ball up in fear and angst with the internal voice saying “please don’t ever let that happen to me.” We fear pain and sorrow. Life is so “good” when things are easy and we want it to remain that way. By seeking only the easy, however, we are asking for the impossible. Life is not made up of one happy or easy moment after another. It involves painful experiences. We are born to struggle, as much as we are born to conquer. When we try to avoid struggle, pain, and discomfort we only find ourselves struggling more, living in more pain and less comfortable. Why? Because we are running from human emotions that are part of our existence. We cannot expect to deny a fundamental piece of our human existence and ever expect to feel complete. Much of my time is spent helping people put together physical AND emotional pieces so they may live a richer, fuller life. A reigning theme in my writings and conversations with others is why things have to be so hard. My response to this question is always the same…this IS what life is made of! Times of darkness are followed by times of light. Joy comes shining in on the heels of sadness. Pride leaps into your heart after a bout with fear and anxiety. Life is ALL of it! Now, this wasn’t something I was always able to embrace. I spent many years of my life wishing things were easier. Years spent in my twenties trying to figure out what I was put on earth to do. Building careers only to feel absolutely no satisfaction in my success. Watching a world full of drug addicts and alcoholics giving birth to unwanted children left and right, while I couldn’t carry a child past 3 months. People leaving their kids in hot cars to suffer to their death and I was visiting my much-wanted infant daughter’s grave. Oh yes, I spent the greater part of my life trying to avoid pain, only to experience more of it. I will never forget a conversation I had with a mentor of mine when I was struggling with business decisions that were tearing me up. Saying to him, “life has just been so good lately and now this; I just want things to stay simple.” He didn’t pause for a moment before giving me a crushing reality check….”Give me a break! That isn’t real life. Real life involves challenge and support.” Those words were a powerful catalyst for my change to the way I think about life. Fast forward several years, countless hours learning to be more self-aware and I finally have a solid grasp on what it means to truly feel life. When we don’t allow ourselves to feel all of the emotions we were meant to feel, we start to numb them all. We cannot selectively choose to express the emotions that make us feel good and avoid the ones that don’t. In doing so, we dampen our ability to feel at all. We lessen our experience of feeling resounding joy and happiness when we are continually running from fear and pain. As the wise words of Brene’ Brown echo in my head, we have to practice vulnerability. We have to start feeling all of what life gives us if we are going to live our lives in ultimate fulfillment. Welcome the seasons of heartache with a natural acceptance and allow yourself to reap the full experience of elation in times of happiness. Let go of the inner voice, asking “why me” and replace it with “why not me”. Heartache is alive and well in the world. In the few short hours I have been writing this article, over 20 people were shot and killed in a church in Texas. A headline popped up on social media of a 6-year-old, local boy who was starved by his parents for so long he ate his pillow. Don’t consume yourself with tragedy in the world, but accept it’s existence as a natural, yet unexplainable part of life. You can bury yourself asking the unanswerable question of why, or you can embrace all of the emotions you were created to experience. Fulfillment only comes with completion and you cannot be complete without embodying every human emotion. Life can be so hard but it also can be so fucking good! Let it all in. Don’t shut any of it out, no matter how tough it gets. Live each day with appreciation and gratitude, knowing the easy seasons will most likely be followed by tough times. Use these experiences to grow into the person you were meant to be.