“Suffering always brings new furniture with it.”
I woke up from a dream where this phrase was being spoken to me by some sort of sage. What the heck?
As I thought about it throughout the day, this was how it decoded:
When suffering comes into my life it always brings new “furniture” for the remodel of my inner life, and (after the pain subsides) my “accommodations” are improved. Afterwards, I will reside more comfortably with myself or be able to provide hospitality to someone else coming into my life later.
In the middle of suffering, I cannot see the new furniture while attempting to light my way with the “matches” of my own wit. But, when I give up trying to fathom the unfathomable, there they are: ghostly, shrouded, half-faded, and half-formed shapes of new wisdom, awareness, and sensitivity.
For this is holy ground
Could we see with seeing eyes
The place we stand upon
Acceptance of one’s life has nothing to do with resignation; it does not mean running away from the struggle. On the contrary, it means accepting it as it comes, with all the handicaps of heredity, of suffering, of psychological complexes, and injustices. – Paul Tournier
That’s a heck of a lot to accept.
Who wants to accept hereditary handicaps, suffering, psychological baggage, topped off with injustices?
Not me. Not anyone. That’s awful!
Yet, nature teaches that there will be a transformation and a payoff…when I decide to submit to the mysterious usefulness of all the awful stuff that I wanted to be angry about.
Or I can stay angry, miss the blossoming, and make a lot of people miserable in the process.
Sometime we need to be reminded that…
- We’re not strong as we have led ourselves and others to believe
- We may need to work on our inner strength and coping strategies
- The world is an extremely unpredictable place and our inner sanctuary is the only real fortress
- A PMR (Productive Mental Routine) is indispensable (see previous day’s post)
Holocaust victim, Etty Hillesum, known as the “thinking heart of the barracks.”
“Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it towards others…” – from An Interrupted Life
But don’t poison us with it.
That term, “sweet poison,” came from Boethius in The Consolation of Philosophy. Philosophy comes to him in his lament over his unjust imprisonment saying, “let me now wipe his eyes that are clouded with a mist of mortal things,” reminds him of the fates of Seneca, Socrates, and other noble sufferers, then inspires Boethius to live above his circumstances.
English author, Neil Gaiman, has a prescription for getting through anything; Make Good Art. (If you haven’t listened to his funny graduation speech, Google it.)
Ultimately, the message is…we can take charge of our lives wherever they are…and actually enjoy doing it.
Or, we can drink more sweet poison and succumb to misery.
Be aware, though, we are poisoning people we love in the process.
I just love this word because it perfectly describes what it feels like when I meet a person who has it.
The “gravity” of their suffering, their depth, their expanse…pulls me toward them. I effortlessly enter their orbit, drawn by open eyes that see, bent ears that hear, and knowing hands that reach out, momentarily embracing my world or revealing theirs.
I felt the gravitas last night, speaking with a man who painfully escaped death beside his not-so-lucky friend in the oil field, with a couple who had lost their business and fortune and had started over from the bottom, and with the reading of a Billy Collins poem, The First Dream.
The bonus of seeking out people with gravitas is the way we walk afterwards…our steps more firmly planted into the rich earth.
Some of us are faster learners than others.
It seems like I was born a whiner, runner, kicker, screamer, and accuser, while others learned earlier that none of those approaches helped, and more quickly embraced a painful challenge as friend instead of foe.
As a result, they seemed to move out of trauma with less effort, while I was stuck in a repeating pattern.
In my “new” life, however, I am committed to better behaviors:
1) Pausing, breathing, resting, and waiting before panicking
2) Labeling every experience as neither good nor bad…only right for me at the time
3) Staying out of the PLOM (poor little ole me) Club
4) Remembering my value…and a Creator who always honors that value
Pink’s song contains the sentiment that lost love will bend us not break us. I like this because the mental picture of what happens when we suffer is consoling.
Personally, being bent has worked to my benefit when I have been growing in the wrong direction.
As a road or river bends, I have taken the scenic route (instead of the direct route) to happiness and have been spared from going off the cliff.
Hindsight has clearly shown that before I suffered, I had often become insufferably arrogant to others by taking myself too seriously; dealing with people without sufficient compassion and sensitivity.
It helps to be reminded that the bending that feels like breaking is really a gentle sculpting of my better self.
Let the work continue.
Why do we always go weird when undesirable things happen to us? What were we thinking? Were we thinking that we were going to wake up and there would be no more trouble in our lives?
Even Jesus said, “In the world you have trouble, but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.”
It’s a promise. In the world we will have trouble. Expect it. Count on it. Embrace it. The quicker we do, the quicker we can get on with happiness.
What did we think “be of good cheer” meant, anyway?
- Suck it up and become cynical
- Get mad or depressed
- Be frightened and withdraw
- Become excessively devoted to security
- Complain about trouble every chance we get
I’m just learning that it means…cheer up.
According to the stories I’ve heard, the bios I’ve read, the people I’ve met, there is no circumstance or fate that cannot be overcome or, at least, made more bearable. There are more people than you can imagine dealing successfully with whatever is challenging you today.
The problem is that we often think we are alone in our suffering. (Google can snuff out that illusion in one click, btw.)
When despair visits your heart or when the unexpected steals your future, I hope you will look around before you give up. You may be surprised to find these three weapons… faith, hope, and love… still available in the world and bringing relief in the most dire of circumstances for the people you’ll want to meet.
All the world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming. – Helen Keller
Sometimes I am overcome with sorrow because of injustice suffered by people all over the world (especially when it involves helpless children and animals) and have to work hard to find hope. Usually my life is running along just fine when something suddenly broadens my awareness of massive pain outside of my sight line, and then I fall hard.
This quote by Helen Keller always lifts me up and encourages me to meet life “head-on” rather than to:
- Pretend like it isn’t there
- Decide there is nothing I can do about it
- Become cynical
- Get depressed
Instead, when I join hands with those who have hung on with hope, I can smile again…and make a difference.