The Buddha said it well 2600 years ago: life is both gain and loss. You can be the smartest, richest, kindest, most emotionally stable human being … and your life won’t be an unbroken surging of happiness. Jolts will come.
There are so many big losses, and a myriad of smaller ones. But even if it’s a paper cut, there’s a slumping of the soul. The reaction could be soft and slow or it might be a burst of “Why me?” “This isn’t fair” or “Life sucks!”
One of my conclusions is that every person I meet on the street or on Zoom is dealing with some painful issue. And our list of defeats, burdens and sorrows can so easily pile up. We get to choose how we respond.
In the realm of “biggies”, let’s start with death. Our loved ones die. With respect to Covid, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently spoke anguished poetry:
The smile that will now only be a memory, the seat forever empty at the dinner table
the room that echoes with the silence of a loved one
And then there’s one’s own death … my death. All the Bruce accumulations, whether physical or spiritual, will be gone. My writings will remain but who knows if anyone will read them. I feel sad when I think of me ending.
Dying may be long and agonizing or a closing of the eyes at night. The approaching end may be vivid or just some vague thought of the future.
Physical pain cuts like a knife or pulses in the background. It may be in spurts or a lingering throughout the day.
Emotional pain may be full-blown terror or sorrow. It may be a vague feeling that I can’t find my home. Or I’m not much of a human being. Or you don’t like me.
Financial demise may mean not being able to feed your family and keep a roof over their heads. Bankruptcy perhaps. Or it may mean no Christmas presents under the tree, no hope for future family travel, or even not being able to afford the magazine you want to read.
There are many other diminishments that may come our way:
Someone breaks their word with you
Late for an appointment, you run into a string of red lights
At a friend’s home, dinner includes a vegetable that you can’t stand
You love snow, and it seems like this winter we’re hardly getting any
Your Internet connection magically disappears. It comes back hours later
Nobody sends you a Christmas card
You’re scammed for $600 while you thought you were helping a friend
The ache in your shoulder just won’t go away
The last time you looked, you were 25
Covid is keeping you physically away from the ones you love
You can’t speak much French to the folks you care about in Senegal
You were born female but you really think you’re a man
You’re still feeling the PTSD years after the incident
You wish Monday was Friday
You know the work you’re doing doesn’t make a difference
The U.S. Capitol was attacked
There are so many woes
There’s no clear winner in the land of joys and sorrows
So let’s stay close to each other