Is Life Difficult?
Recently, I opened my well-worn copy of The Road Less Traveled, by M Scott Peck MD, and revisited the first line: “Life is difficult”. Many years ago, when my Book Club met to discuss this book, everyone resonated so much with that line that we discussed it for months. Peck goes on to say,
“Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult.”
Really!? I must be the one Peck is referring to when he says that most people, “moan more or less incessantly, noisily or subtly, about the enormity of their problems, their burdens, and their difficulties as if life were generally easy, as if life should be easy,”
Yep, he was definitely talking about me.
Easy to Say…
The problem is, it’s well and good to say life is difficult and I will just deal with what comes, but when it does… when death visits our families when health issues scare us, when hurricanes and floods evict us from our homes, when relationships are severed, it’s not easy.
We all know someone who has collapsed beneath the weight of these challenges, and in most cases, not one person would blame them. When my son died, I thought of the lady who had lost her teenage daughter years before, how, since then her house was dark on Halloween night, as if she refused to go on living. I didn’t want to do that, though now I understood what kind of despair preceded her decision.
But it was hard, at first, it was hard to even breathe. It took courage summoned by a sheer act of will to fight the despair. I reminded myself that “I am Alex Gosselin’s mother,” that I would make him proud. But some days it was an achievement just to make it to the end of the day.
It’s Not Fair
Why didn’t Peck lead with that; Life is not fair, because it’s not, is it?
A wise man once said to me;
“The question is, do you sink or swim? It is not a matter of fairness, justice or expectations of where your life “should be.” Draw strength from swimming.”
This message is among the greatest gifts I’ve received in my life so far.
Why Do We Do This to Ourselves?
Guy Finley, Author of The Secret of Letting Go said, “Almost every kind of unhappy feeling is the result of mistaking the partial for the whole.” A bad or challenging thing happens to us and we judge all of life as bad. I get that. I’ve done that. I do that, still.
I think the secret to living a happy life is in relishing the little moments. That’s the place to live our lives, deep in the joy of a happy moment. Yesterday, I went for a walk along the river and it was glorious. It was just me and the river and the breeze and the sunshine. And yet it was glorious.
A World in Crisis
As I’m working on this draft, people are just cleaning up after Hurricane Harvey and bracing for Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Jose. A deadly earthquake has hit Mexico and there is massive flooding in South Asia. I don’t know how people deal with such huge challenges and, for some, unthinkable tragedies. I only know one thing; they will have to fight the despair that threatens them; they will have to keep swimming if they don’t want to sink, and at times they will need to climb up into their lifeboat.
And I hope they will be able to notice the little happy moments that are sure to come, even now. Times of crisis are always punctuated by little happy moments brought about by the kindness of strangers, the helping hand extended, the generousity of a fellow traveler in this strange journey called life. These are experiences of the spirit of community.
Yet even in ordinary times we can find ourselves swimming against the current. We need community to sustain us during those swims and in the aftermath of the storms we weather in life.
We truly are all in this together. You are not alone.
Photo Credit: Coram Deo