We each have good and bad days, but lately even the good days seem to be overshadowed with some virus dread. Most days for me now, I might wake up feeling positive–that things are getting better–but towards the evening, I worry if things will become worse. After a few days of this anxiety, I exhaust myself so much that barely have energy to think clearly; and I can imagine others feel similarly. So I’ve been trying to use more logic in these emotionally trying times. Here’s the best I could come up with so far:
When a situation becomes challenging, fear makes us aware that we can be harmed. If harmed, pain tells us that we can do something about it. But if we choose irrationality, it will say to push the knife all the way through to take it out. And suffering is the resulting consequence of the choice we make.
If we pause to act rationally, we realize that the knife doesn’t need to go deeper. We can assess and act accordingly. But if all we focus on is trying to remove the knife any way possible because of the pain we might do in the worst way possible: pushing it all the way through, even though there are many better ways. As Mike Tyson was famous for saying, “everyone has a plan until they are punched in the mouth.” When we are in pain, it’s difficult to remain coherent. But if we accept pain as part of our lives, we can learn to respond–and not just react–whenever we feel it.
If you were pricked by a thorn, would you touch it again? Or would the pain the first time be enough to stop you from doing it again? Most of us would be smart enough to learn the first time. But most of us also choose to think about things repetitively that have caused us suffering. If we experience some kind of pain like the thorn, we have the nerve endings to experience it once and learn from it. But to continually do so will be extremely uncomfortable. There will eventually be blood loss, your finger will develop a gradual numbness to the anticipated pain. There will be a scar. Your body will send white blood cells, platelets and everything else required to help heal it. But if we don’t allow time for healing, we cannot expect to heal.
Stress is a really big factor in our society today. Stress depletes the immune system so much, and takes away time from doing the things we wish we were doing. It creates resentment and absence in the lives of others we care about. It’s a lingering virus that erodes us away faster. And the cause of the virus is most often recurring painful thoughts that we have yet to lay to rest. They are the thorns you keep pricking your finger on, disallowing healing into our lives.
Is life truly so painful, that many of us seek to be sedated with things like food, music, poetry, alcohol and drugs? What about life makes it so painful, that escaping it seems like bliss? I wish I knew. Yet we pursue our poisons in excess until they kill us: our love of food becomes heart disease and diabetes, our love of alcohol becomes failed organs and relationships, our love of drugs dulls our awareness and make terrible things seem okay. And what about poetry and books, where we live the memories of the authors instead of creating our own? We need higher and higher doses for the same escape each time.
Is reality really too much information to take in? So overstimulating, that we need to dull our senses to enjoy the beauty of it in small pieces? Perhaps there is no escape from making the choice of which poison we choose to escape the normal discomfort of reality. It’s much easier to create our own world which makes us ignorant of everything around us.
Just like how when we look at a rose, we ignore everything around it in order to focus on the Christmas of its red petals and green leaves, the thorns and its fragrance. It seems like the flower itself has a universe of its own that becomes more apparent when we ignore our own. Maybe we are looking for our own roses.
Fear is like a virus that is passed down from generation to generation. And unfortunately, the only people who have the strength to overcome it are the ones who suffer the most.
Think of war, particularly our white blood cells that attack foreign objects coming into our bloodstream. When we get sick, it is an immunological response to something foreign that may kill us. Our body temperatures will rise, we may vomit frequently and just feel like total hell–but if the body didn’t have the capability to fight, we would just be dead. Pain then, is actually a way for the things we can’t see, to tell us that the smaller forces are doing their job.
As Jiddu Krishnamurti once stated, fear is a result of thought and time. The more we think about something that has happened, or of what might happen, the more fearful we become. Many of our parents, peers and coworkers have built a life based on the blueprint of someone else; and yet they are surprised when their decisions don’t allow them happiness. This is where the fear begins, because memories of failure are compounded over time with the pain they cause.
Seldom in our lives, are the comments that are made about us, actually about us. If you’re not good at something now, you can get better. If you have flaws that bother others, you can always work on them–no one is without them. But most importantly, if you didn’t have what it takes to win, you wouldn’t be suffering right now. Because suffering (in the positive light) is a bitch of a blessing for living.
Whenever we revisit the past, we must make sure to enjoy the good moments as much as we scrutinize our bad moments. It’s easy to spend time scrutinizing every mistake you’ve ever made – who else besides us knows every mistake we’ve ever made? But for some reason, it’s so easy to forget the things we do correctly: the good decisions. The decisions where present-day you would be proud of younger you for making that choice. Most of us (when invited) would easily celebrate the victory of a good friend or someone else we care about, but why do we forget to celebrate our victories as greatly as we scrutinize our pain? Perhaps we’ve contlditioned to look for the faults in others, instead of improving ourselves, because the former is much easier than the latter – judging others is easy, yet changing ourselves requires a lot of failure, pain and introspection. Is there a painless way to learn? No. Pain is an integral part of the human experience. Suffering however is optional. What we choose to do with the pain is what ultimately transforms us into the person we want to become. We’ve learned to become who we are from the pain of our mistakes. Pain is guaranteed, but suffering is optional.