When We Get Served Shit at Life’s Table.
“Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.” ~ Anonymous
At some point in our lives, we will go through pain. Even if we are healthy right now, we will eventually age and get sick. It’s the impermanence of life we refuse to contemplate on. How we connect and react to pain is the only thing that’s in our hands. Let me share with you a personal story.
My uncle — a tall, sophisticated, eccentric who refuses to dress like normal people, whose idea of breakfast includes sitting down for two hours at 12 pm, eating slowly and enjoying every bite, a world traveler, wine connoisseur, sculptor and family man — was recently diagnosed with ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the body.
The disease began in the tongue, so he can no longer speak or eat, and this is only the beginning of a long journey.
During a Friday Shabbat Dinner, I sat next to him. I wanted to make him feel a part of the conversation that he had always been a part of. He has an iPad, in which he writes short notes. As I sat there, I felt an immense sadness and I could barely hold my tears. That night I didn’t sleep, thinking what I could do, how could I alleviate the pain that my family is going through, and suddenly it hit me… Nothing.
I could do nothing and that is one of the most frustrating and sad feelings. When we have nothing to do or give to the people we love, it feels as if we are given a plate full of shit when we ordered the filet mignon. Our first reaction is to say, “Fuck No! Why me? Why him? This isn’t fair! How can I fix this? Tell me what to do! No! No! No!”
And the angrier we get, the frustration rises and we push the sadness away. The deeper we dive headfirst into the shit, the longer we stay there, even get used to the smell, feeling sorry for ourselves and for others, swimming in a sea of despair, and living our lives trying to change the situation which is causing our suffering, or…
… we can get our head out of the shit. Creating space for the sadness as well as the joys, for the filet mignons we ate, for the family we created, the words we spoke, the kisses and laughter, not hanging on to past memories but seeing our life as an endless mural.
We can practice compassion for the pain of others without feeling sorry for them. We can understand oneness by letting go of our arrogance and self-absorption.
Life has changed. No, this is not what we ordered, but let’s get over that part. So we can rejoice in the little things, we can appreciate life in a different way, find comfort in the simplicity, in the love that surrounds us. We can turn it around, we can use this shit as fertilizer to grow in new and different ways.