Life is too important to live in hardship and despair.
I found this sentence written in my journal from an entry made shortly after I quit drinking. I think I must have borrowed it from Thich Nhat Hanh or Deepak Chopra. It is a mantra to me. When I read those words I get a visceral reaction in my guts.
It is one of those truths from the universe. So simple, yet so elusive.
We seem to spend so much of our daily energy struggling.
One of my favorite lyrics is from a Cake song: Some people like to make life a little tougher than it is. I used to listen to that song over and over after my divorce: back when I was feeling the Joy that opened up in me once I gained freedom from that doomed and juvenile relationship. A Joy that I so carelessly let drown in too much “celebrating.” A Joy that became forgotten underneath the piles of drunken regret after too many blacked out nights. I ironically made my own newly-Joyful life Tougher.
I took a life of relative ease, with my upper-middle class upbringing and rosy childhood, and built a series of challenges and problems I had to work through: I lost all my scholarships and almost flunked out of college because I was too hungover to make it to class. I married a man who was unwilling to be an equal partner. I continually drank so much that losing my purse, wallet or keys was a monthly occurrence. I gave my heart and body over to losers and dealt with the consequences. I crashed my car. I got a DUI.
Hardship and despair were never thrust upon me; instead I manifested them around myself like a hairshirt and wore it for decades.
Why do so many of us chose to live in Hardship? And I don’t just mean creating our own problems with alcohol or drugs or abusive relationships, but also our tendencies to focus on life’s day-to-day irritants and our collective gravitation to the fear-mongering media? Why do we seek out Despair to dampen us?
Thich Nhat Hanh did say this: People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.
And yes, I suppose that was true for me. If I quit going out and partying every night and creating all this suffering, what would be left of me? What would my life even look like without those familiar feelings of shame and loneliness? It would open the door to the greatest unknown – the meaning of my own existence.
One of my other favorite quotes, a line from a Mary Oliver poem, asks perhaps the scariest question of all: Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
What if I have to admit that I don’t know the answer???
Or worse yet, what if the answer is simply to experience BEING ALIVE.
I look at my little children. They know the answer. It’s so obvious to them: Just run through the grass and laugh, Mommy. Save some worms from a puddle and then have a lollipop. It’s that simple.
I’ve got one chance to live this life I’ve been given. Why waste it suffering? Why not just enjoy all the Feelings for what they are: twists and turns on this crazy-ass roller coaster.
I don’t operate in self-destruct mode anymore, but sometimes I can still feel the familiar tug of suffering.
I woke up this morning with what felt like the Weight of the World on my back. There is a lot going on right now: my husband is dealing with chronic pain that is preventing him from working, yet our kitchen is in the middle of a remodel and our house is a disaster. To top it off, the kids were sick last week, my uncle is in the ICU for a stroke, and I found out a friend of the family is dying of cancer. There is Hardship around. There is always reason for Despair. I get tempted to let it surround me and pull me down like a raging river.
But then my sweet daughter sang a song about unicorns as I drove her to school and the sunrise spilled purple all over the blue sky and the early spring birds boasted their melodies outside my window.
Tears fell. I stood in my driveway and I watched the morning clouds. And I breathed.
LIFE IS TOO IMPORTANT. RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW.
THIS LIFE IS TOO IMPORTANT TO LIVE IN HARDSHIP AND DESPAIR.
It took me a long time to realize this truth. And when I find myself slipping back into the Poor Me mindset when things seem bleak, I breathe and I surrender to this life.
THIS LIFE IS OF THE UTMOST IMPORTANCE.
©Vixen Lea 2020