So often we focus on the hard things going on in or lives, the tough things, and we forget about the good.
My husband is a great one for seeing the positive side, for assuming the best in people. He just sat on the phone for hours waiting to talk with a Delta customer service representative in hopes of receiving a refund from his cancelled flight to New York because of the flu. I was sure it was wasted energy. Sure enough! She gave him a voucher for a future flight!
When I flip that switch from negative to positive, I experience the world in such a different light. I am sick with the flu and my friend came and walked my dog, as well as brought me soup! Instead of focusing on the aches and fever, I am left with the sweet spirit of giving. If I am mindful, the list can go on: The baker gave me an extra cookie; my neighbor took the garbage can out to the curb when my husband wasn’t feeling well; the tech repair person found the replacement for the broken part in the back, averting the need to send the phone away for three weeks.
The good is out there. As I write this blog, however, I’m aware that most blogs are about challenges, problems to solve, issues we have. What do you do with a blog about the good thing in life?
So why does bad beat good?
Which brings me to the question: so why do we so often focus on the bad things that happen to us? And even more to the point, as we get older, does this negativity intensify?
One perspective on the negativity comes from the most visible sign of our aging: our body. Each year, as we get older, we are gifted with the awareness that we reign over a deteriorating body. Over the years, we watch as our hearing goes, we get more easily tired and more frequently weak. I hate it whenever I can’t get a jar open! My husband’s naps get longer and more frequent.
Sadness, fear and anger are understandable reactions to the loss of the body that has always been our “temple”. This was the body that was obedient, brought delight when defeating difficult obstacles, and facilitated our enjoyment of so many avenues of life from the wilds of the back woods to the harmonies right here at home. Whether we are just now noticing hints of these changes, or have already confronted many of the vagaries of aging, the reality is upon us.
Our bodies let us down
Since we all must deal with this deterioration, rather than carrying the uncomfortable feelings with us all of time, leading to potential negativity and complaints, what might we do instead?
We can separate pain and suffering. Pain is the actual, physical manifestation of our many aches. My back reminds me every morning that I have arthritis. I am aware of my friend’s physical pain every time I see his cane. And while not actually painful, I am so aware of hearing deterioration as so many conversations these days are interspersed with “What?”, “Pardon”, and “Say again”.
Suffering vs Pain
Suffering, on the other hand, has to do with the story we tell ourselves about the pain. The stories can range from “Why me? It’s not fair!” to “I’ll never be able to do what I used to do! Travel is out of the question.” The stories come from our fear, our history, maybe from our parents, and our assumptions regarding what life SHOULD be like. I may be afraid of being dependent on others, or had the experience of my parents giving up on life once they experienced their first physical challenges; then of course, my story about my back aches will be full of suffering!
Once we identify where our suffering stories come from, we have the choice to let go of them. I can change my assumptions and definitely remind myself that I am not my mother!
With no suffering in the mix, I am now left with just the pain. Pain, while not great, without the light of suffering underneath it to fuel its intensity, can more easily be tolerated.
Lose the suffering
The pain in my back may be worse in the mornings. The suffering, I can carry with me all day, every day. The pain in my back makes it difficult to bend over, the suffering makes it difficult to interact with others and enjoy life.
Suffering, I believe, sets the stage for much of the negativity seen in older folk. Carrying a view with you at all times that life isn’t fair, that now that you’re old, you’re powerless, or your life will never be the same, only washes a negative perspective over all of your interactions.
Your choice- accept your pain, reject your suffering.
Enjoy those little things that creep up all over the place.
Share a sweet note-
Better yet, share something good with a friend and double your pleasure! Your friend will be way more delighted with the sound of enjoyment than that of a complaint.
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For the Fourth: Making Peace with the Past
July 5, 2017
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