"Never waste your suffering." This was in response to a question I'd asked him about whether he thought that suffering makes us into better people. He said, "Not necessarily. Not automatically. Suffering just happens, constantly and randomly, and if you don't make anything out of it, then it causes you nothing but harm — it happened to you for no reason. But suffering can also be the greatest possible invitation to transform — but only if you accept that invitation, and only if you go through a complete catharsis, and only if you actually change yourself because of what you've experienced. But that part is up to you. Only you can execute a catharsis in your own life. Suffering without catharsis is nothing but wasted pain. And you should never waste your pain, never waste your suffering. It's powerful stuff, the most powerful stuff there is. Use it. Transform from it. Learn. Grow. Be better." Jim MacLaren
I want to repeat that one line, because it has never stopped ringing in my head: SUFFERING WITHOUT CATHARSIS IS NOTHING BUT WASTED PAIN.
Don't ever let your pain be wasted. Make something of it. Use it for transformation. Harness its power and evolve.
Jim MacLaren died in 2010.
What I've learned from this new pain is that I am enough. Or I hope I have learned it. Before David died I spent an inordinate amount of time wondering What I Was Going To Do Next. How I was going to make my mark on the world, or make a bigger more important mark on the world. I was destined for greatness, I needed to find a way to Change Things.
I thought I knew that things didn't matter. I was never one for ownership, fancy cars, big houses, expensive clothes or gadgets. But I still believed that more recognition, power, influence mattered. I didn't know I believed this, I thought I just wanted to make a difference in the world; but in reality I wanted my difference to be valued so much that it would be recognized and honored. By many. For a little while after David died I believed this even more. I would create meaning in my life again! I would use my suffering for the greater good! I would transform myself and the world! I've calmed down a little bit now.
Now, I am really learning that stuff doesn't matter. I am not really any happier with my paid for car and house. Yes, it's good to not worry about living in my car or choosing rent over food, both of which I spent many years doing, but there are new worries. Worries don't go away. And I just figured out that power, recognition, influence are a kind of stuff. They don't really matter either and they never made me any happier. When I was younger and riding the wave, looked up to, the go to person, I wasn't any happier. I still felt like it was never enough.
Now, what I miss most, what made me happiest, is the love and belonging I felt with David. The community and family that came with being a part of his life and him being a part of mine. Hearing people talk about his life and his powerful affect on them brings this into sharp relief. They remember that he loved them, that he was present for them, that he accepted them where they were and who they were. No one cares what he did for his work or how influential he was, how much he owned or how nice any of it was.
I find myself relaxing into the knowledge that I don't have to do anything anymore. No more striving or worrying or reaching. There is only the question of how I will use this life and this suffering and sorrow. Will I use it to make me whole? To create in myself someone who is capable of love and compassion? Someone who truly knows what that means? I hope so.
(I wrote this post a couple of months ago and found it in drafts. When I wrote it I think it felt like too much, now it feels like something too share....)
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
This house stares me down every morning, and most mornings, it wins. I drop my eyes, my shoulder's curve inward and I slink away.
I sit outside with my morning coffee and every tree, bush and rock holds a memory. I go inside and every piece of wood, tile, even the paint holds another memory. The morning sun shining through the windows and warming the floors, the changes I've made to the shape of the rooms, these things don't keep the house from winning.
I thought half way through the second year things would be easing off a bit. And they are. The grief is no longer a blazing sword, now it's more like an ever present set of eyes. Watching, always there. It rarely takes me down anymore but it wears away at me and I am tired. My struggle now is not how to get through each day but how to find myself again.
I know I feel like me when I get down off this mountain, away from the hills and trees that always feel so claustrophobic to me. I know I remember who I am when I am with a student, teaching. I know my soul breathes at the ocean, with the smell of salt and air I can feel on my skin. Honestly, many days I want to leave these hills and this house and find a way to something new and clear.
Someone told me the other day that it was just a house. And he was right. But right now, the house still wins.