Living with the Wound

Living with the Wound February 13, 2023

If your voice breaks, I’ll be a cup.

If your heart sweats, I’ll be a pillow

on which you’ll chance to dream

that weeping is singing

through an instrument

that’s hard to reach,

though it lands us like lightning

in the grasp of each other

where giving is a mirror

of all we cannot teach.



Facing what is difficult is one thing, but living with the wound, in ourselves and in others, means tending to someone you love for the long haul, sometimes for years. Wounds need air to heal and emotional, psychic, and spiritual wounds need the open company of committed friends to heal. So, living with the wound means that sitting with someone in their pain is more important than any cherished plans. It means not going to the play you’ve waited months to see, when your dear friend can’t go on. It means withstanding the unexpected lashing out that comes from someone close when they are suffering. It means sitting in compassion with yourself, when you are the one suffering.

On July 14,1763, the eminent English writer, Samuel Johnson, wrote in a letter to his friend George Strahan:

You are not to imagine that my friendship is light enough to be blown away by the first cross blast, or that my regard or kindness hangs by so slender a hair, as to be broken off by the unfelt weight of a petty offence. I love you, and hope to love you long.

True friends have always known that living with the wound depends on “loving you long.” To care in this way requires that we accept those we love by acknowledging their pain and confusion, not forcing them to justify why they are off course. As the American artist and philosopher, Elbert Hubbard, learned, “Never explain—your friends do not need it and your enemies will not believe you anyway.”

We start each day with dreams and plans, only to have life change our course, sometimes before we are dressed. It seems the real, unexpected work unfolds when we are asked or forced to put down our plans to keep a friend’s work alive, or to keep a friend alive, or to keep a friend’s soul alive.


A Question to Walk With: In conversation with a friend or loved one, describe the most enduring thing a friend has done for you. How did it help you? What has endured?

This is from my book, You Don’t Have to Do It Alone.

Join Mark’s Next 3-Session Webinar Surviving Storms: Finding the Strength to Meet Adversity February 4, 11, 17, 2023. Register at

FEB 20-24: Mastery Week: The Call of Your Soul, Weeklong Retreat, The Modern Elder Academy, Mexico, (web link) — IN PERSON

MAY 19-26: Drinking From the River of Light: The Life of Expression, Weeklong Retreat, Global Journeys, Florence Italy, (web link) — IN PERSON

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