Earlier this week I was reading this funny book and was so struck by one of the passages near the end. She quoted this poem by Walt Whitman:
Sometimes with one I love I fill myself with rage for fear I effuse unreturn’d love,But now I think there is no unreturn’d love, the pay is certain one way or another(I loved a certain person ardently and my love was not return’d,Yet out of that I have written these songs).
What he’s saying is that no matter what happens in a relationship, you’ll always be getting some kind of return on your investment. There is no such thing as wasted love.
If you’re a writer, you get to write about your heartbreak. If you’re a podcaster, you get to talk about it. If you’re an artist, you get to make it into something beautiful. If you’re a life-liver, you will always get to learn something valuable to take with you on to the next experience.
Another way of saying this is the saying “It’s all grist for the mill,” which means that all things are a potential source of profit or advantage. Or, as Oprah says, “Things happen for me, not to me”: everything is useful in one way or another.
I like this way of thinking about life as a great big classroom full of teachers and lessons. It gives me solace to know that I can’t mess it up: the pay is certain, one way or another.