Growth does not come in the easy way we would like. We would like think that we grow by fun, happiness and good times. Wrong. We grow by facing challenge. Suffering is a promise that life always keeps. We can avoid suffering, we can become imbittered by suffering (see life isn’t fair) or we can learn to embrace our suffering.
By that I do not mean those “psychological martyrs” who make superficial suffering another defense against the real thing but to embrace the real pain that comes our way allowing it to be pain. What can our suffering teach us? Suffering can teach us the deep “stipped down” essential truth about ourselves, others and the nature of reality.
For better for worse — for richer for poorer — in sickness and in health — embedded in marriage vows is the medieval wheel of fortune. There is an acknowledgment that marriage (and other loves) are not perfect. You can love someone without loving them the way they may need OR may want to be loved.
I love the photo of after the service. The groom has removed his jacket and he and his wife are walking across a lawn accompanied by their smallest attendants. They have begun the reentry into ordinary time where love may now be less intense but more sustainable. After the honeymoon comes the most important skill-set for the rest of life: forgiveness.
We love to have a plan. People are often paralyzed by choice when making life decisions feeling that if they do not make the right choice they are on the road to failure. My late teacher Ed Friedman said that his observation was that the choice was less important than how the person functioned after the choice was made. If the first choice proved incorrect then choose again! I value his wisdom more every year.
Knowing felines as I do, the cat below almost certainly didn’t plan to wind up in the drink. The puss would just have soon been most anywhere else then in the H2O bath. But after the splash Mr. Puss did what cats do very well he paddled to shore shook off the water gathered his dignity and retired to groom himself into his usual splendor. I should know I live with a pair of Bengals although they like water.
Yes things rarely go according to plan but if we are flexible know it to be true that we will survive and often what happens turns out better than the plan we intended.
The most unfair thing we teach children is that life is fair. We go to great lengths to keep the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortunate” away from the door. NOT FAIR! is the litany of those who assume themselves entitled to a life of ease. The house below was built apparently on a sand dune. As time passed wind and water did what elements do to hills of sand even when our houses are on top. Now the home-place is at extreme risk (the piece is called “Don’t Slam the door”). Wind, Water and even fickle Sand have no intention. They just do what they do. Fairness has nothing to do with it.
There used to be a time when people were grateful when things went well. Now people pay no attention when things are good assuming such as their right. At the first hint of difficulty a call to headquarters is made complaining of the unfairness of it all. We are spoiled and have been weakened by our privilege. Life is not fair — the quicker we embrace this reality the sooner we can grow up and amount to something.
We spend out lives saying hello and goodbye and living in between as if nothing will ever change. Our denial is complete and life-long so that we grieve each loss as if for the first time every-time we need to leave or be left (and it is always easier to leave than to be left).
The mark of maturity is to know that nothing is forever and not be paralyzed by that truth. To know the truth of coming loss but also to live with joy for what and who we do have while we have them. It takes a lot of energy to keep ourselves in the dark about the truth of change and endings. To embrace it takes less energy and actually there is, I think, a bit less pain in inevitable loss by doing so.