There are really only a few things that cause us to suffer, but they definitely get the job done. One is clinging — there’s something or someone we desire, some particular set of circumstances, some way of thinking or being, and we simply refuse to let go. When we’re attached in any way, we’re setting ourselves up for pain. Attachment to other people (which is a by-product of being human) leads to suffering because we are all in process all the time. You can’t “peg” a person, or pin someone down, or own anybody. People will choose to be with you or they won’t. Human beings have an expiration date as well, so even if a person chooses to be with you, eventually they’ll leave you or you’ll leave them. Attachment leads to suffering, and with human beings there’s no way around it, nor do I suggest you try to find one unless you truly feel called to move to a cave. The joy in this life comes from connection, from uncovering your gifts and sharing them, from touch, from laughter, from being seen and heard and understood and cherished. I wish that for you. I hope your heart expands with so much love you have moments you think it might just burst. Otherwise, I really can’t say what the point would be. You will lose people you love and it will hurt beyond anything you can fathom, but there’s a beauty in having loved that way — that can’t be taken from you. You have a light and you’re meant to shine it with whatever time you’ve got, and attachment to an idea or a way of being leaves no room for anything else to unfold, to evolve, to open. You’ll keep growing and learning if you allow yourself to shift and change, to loosen your grip on the story. It’s natural to all of us. Stifling that is a form of death, of strangulation.
Another is avoidance or denial. We know the truth of something, but we refuse to accept it. We are so not okay with an idea or a situation, we reject it. We fling it from us, or numb ourselves to the heartbreak of the thing. We tenaciously push away the undesired outcome, or we make ourselves drunk with distraction so we can pretend it isn’t happening this way. You want the truth? You might as well because trying to push it down or push it away is simply not sustainable, it makes you sick in your soul and it’s exhausting. Denial leads to depression. Denying your own feelings takes up so much energy, you simply don’t have much for anything else. Getting out of bed feels like a herculean effort. Forget about tea with a friend. Who can muster the energy to shower and go out in public and find the facial muscles to smile?
Fear of death is the final one. Your own death, or the death of people you love beyond words. The idea that someone could be ripped from you, or you could be ripped from everyone and everything you know can be crushing or paralyzing for people. For a lot of people, there’s so much fear and anxiety around that it’s hard to function, to go out into the world with an open heart and and open mind and open arms because there are too many giant what ifs in the way. The truth is, it’s a thin, thin layer between this living life we have, and whatever it is that happens after we exhale for the final time. I think it’s like a membrane between here and there. That was my experience once, many years ago when I was sick with pneumonia and almost let myself drift off because I didn’t want to take medication. I got to this place of feeling so floaty, so peaceful, I thought, maybe I could just go now and that would be okay. Of course, I had a temperature of 104, so that may have been influencing me, but something in me wasn’t ready for that, so I got two shots of penicillin in my a$$ and here I am, so grateful.
The second time I experienced that sensation of how thin it is, the here and there of this thing, was during childbirth with my son. We didn’t have an easy time, and there were many moments I wasn’t sure which way we were headed. I’ll tell you at that time I fought with everything I had to keep us both here. I clung to this life, for him, and for myself. I wanted to see his face. I wanted to hold him, to kiss him, to look into his eyes. It is a fragile thing, so I would say let that inspire you to treasure it. Cherish it. Live it. Don’t wait and don’t hold hold your breath because you’ll miss out. If you love someone, hold their face in your hands, and make sure they know it. Life can be both piercingly beautiful and painful. Some of it will break your heart wide open. I think your job is to let it. Let it soften you and open you, so when the joy comes, when the love comes, you’re ready to receive it. You don’t get to own it, or keep it in a box, you don’t get to control it, so breathe in and breathe out, and let it wash over you and through you.
Sending you love,