Lean In, Baby, Just Lean In
I used to be afraid to tell you more bad stuff was happening in my life because I don’t want pity, and because I thought for sure I was doing something to “deserve” all this bad stuff. On some level, I think I believed I had not become enlightened/empowered/aura-fied/chakra-fied/fully present/fearless/brave/spiritual/positive thinking enough to transcend suffering.
I wanted so badly in my journeys these last 4 years to find a way to transcend suffering. I really thought if I read enough books, meditated well enough, shared some insight with others who were suffering and maybe wrote a book, gave a speech, that would also help you transcend suffering… then everything would be better.
But, that’s not true. There is no such thing as transcending suffering. In fact, the very revolt against it only solidifies and intensifies its grip of angst on your soul.
I have not done anything to deserve 20 deaths in 4 years, moving 5 times, watching my daughter grieve her best friend, suffering through illness after illness after illness, pay cut after pay cut, job loss after job loss.
All this “bad stuff” happened because I’m human, and this is the human experience. This is just life. This is the life of someone who loves deeply, and thus has much to lose, much to ache over, much to grieve. God, who would want a life that had nothing to miss? Nothing to lose? Nothing to be afraid of leaving behind?
Instead of trying to find a way to live without loss – turn inward, put up walls of solitude and shut out anything that might possibly cause potential pain, I have chosen to keep buckled in on this rollercoaster ride and try my best to embrace both its dips and hills.
I have found the greatest thing I can give myself is compassion. Compassion for ourselves is allowing and softening into whatever feelings arise – good or bad – instead of shunning them away because they are “bad” or “uncomfortable.”
Thich Nhat Hanh says we should cradle our suffering like a baby, so, when I am hurting and angry, I try to look at myself like I look at my 6-year-old when she is in the midst of a full blown meltdown. On the surface, there is anger, pain, tears – underneath, there is sadness, sorrow, hurt, frustration, and a little girl just dying to be heard and understood.
We each have that child within, who just wants her pain to be seen and heard.
It would be easy for me to turn into a mean, angry, violent person. I have so much hurt and anger inside for all the shit I’ve been handed. It takes everything in me to, instead, try to let it out – breathe through it, lean into it, feel it, and go through it, not around it. I have learned that allowing myself to be in the uncomfortable space of anger, frustration, self-doubt, shame, loneliness, and sorrow, is actually the only path through suffering. Lean in, not away. Soften into it. Have compassion for myself, instead of anger at myself for not being a perfect human being who has somehow magically found a way to live a life free of suffering.
So, instead of telling you to feel better today about whatever you are going through, I am going to tell you, go ahead and feel like crap. Have a pity party for one for a minute. Cry, throw a temper tantrum, punch a freaking wall. Then, pick yourself up like a child who fell off his bike, and wipe your tears away with compassion – true, all-encompassing, non-judgmental compassion that allows you to feel whatever you are feeling now.
I’d like to think life will get “better” eventually, but it may not, so I try to embrace whatever is before me – even the pain, because I know more joy is just around the corner, and all of it is part of this crazy, mad, happy sad beautiful life. For everything I have lost, I have loved a whole lot more.**
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