Anyone who is suffering through a difficult ordeal, like having your newborn in a chronic hospital stay, will tend to hear a lot of platitudes. "Things will be alright in the end." "You'll get through this." "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."
Platitudes are, in my opinion, socially acceptable ways to opt out of becoming emotionally invested. Society's blanket statements that don't actually have any meaning in them, any more than "Hi, how are ya?" has any real meaning. They are things we say to each other rather than listen.
No one can be entirely emotionally available all the time, but we can be awake to others. Its like my favorite line in Joe Versus the Volcano, when Patricia says: "My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement."
You can go your whole day without any meaningful experiences. You can have friendships that never go beyond platitudes. Heck, I've been with a group of students standing in the most incredible ruins in Angkor Wat, and they weren't there. Their minds were at home, thinking about food, sleep, Facebook. They weren't there.
To have meaningful experiences we have to be awake. Paying attention, conscious of ourselves. My favorite poem, A Palm of Life by Longfellow, says what I mean exactly:
"TELL me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream ! —
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem."
"Be not like dumb, driven cattle !
Be a hero in the strife !
Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant !
Let the dead Past bury its dead !
Act,— act in the living Present !
Heart within, and God o'erhead !"
We don't have to be okay all the time. I am sad, my baby is going to go through a big, painful ordeal tomorrow for her assessment. This little baby doesn't know anything other than a hospital. She is almost 11 weeks old and has never felt the sun on her skin or heard a dog bark. Our family is not whole. So when I'm asked if I'm doing okay, and I answer honestly, people either laugh, or shrug it off. They're asleep. It is true that it is better to make a gesture of kindness than to make no gesture at all. I guess what I'm saying is, if you are awake to the world and to yourself, you will feel an awful lot of pain and sadness, as well as joy. But I think it is better to invest ourselves than not to pay attention at all.