Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
–Rumi, “The Great Wagon”
I have this bad habit of asking God to take away all my pain, particularly my sorrows.
I’ve always sort of thought if I could walk through life like a robot, making all the “right decisions,” never having to experience pain, I’d be infinitely happy.
But pain and pleasure is inevitable in this life, and there’s no way to stop either of them from happening in you. On days I’m feeling great, I don’t even want to fathom what can go wrong. And on days I’m feeling shitty, I have the assumption that the next few days will be the same, that I’ll spiral into a hole I can’t get out of.
It’s somewhat of an extremist point of view.
Because life isn’t about seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. We think that’s what a good life is. We think that’s how we’re going to avoid problems and find lasting happiness, if we just protect ourselves from any potential sorrow and run after the things that make us high.
But numbness, avoidance, and denial of your true nature is not going to get you very far. It’s only going to make you end up in the same damaging place, or feel locked in a cage, trying to control things that you simply cannot control. And trying to stay numb, or avoiding potential pitfalls, or denying what you really need in this life means you’ll also never get to experience true joy.
Sometimes, our mistakes are actually the best things that ever happened to us. Because what things look like on paper and what they feel like on the inside can be the complete opposite.
And what matters infinitely more, as you probably already know, is how something feels on the inside.
Each one of my three children was a planned pregnancy. (Even my sexual fantasies include birth control.) But when I decided I wanted to have a third child, I knew it didn’t make much sense. The job situation in my household was not secure. My then-husband was embarking on self-employment, and I only had part-time work. But something inside me told me this new soul was ready and eager to be in our lives, to come into the physical world. I felt like she was talking to me, poking at me in some other realm, saying C’mon, get on this already, make this happen.
So I got pregnant, and when the hormones shot through me, I immediately started to have regrets. My marriage was in trouble, and money was an issue. What was I thinking, bringing a baby into such a mess? I tormented myself with the feeling that I had made a mistake, that I’d led my family astray. Nine months felt like an eternity. I grew depressed and fearful and felt powerless—no one was going to hire me with a huge pregnant belly, so there was little I could do to fix things, to make things better, to give us more of a safety net.
And then my baby came, and with her arrival all my worries melted. The crazy hormones evaporated too, thank God. And what I was left with was a sense of calm and peace, beauty and gratitude that she was here. She was more amazing than I ever could have hoped for. And even though she was only a few months old when my marriage collapsed, I didn’t feel overwhelmed by having an infant to take care of in the midst of divorce. She was taking care of me—I could tell that much. She reminded all of us that there was something to hope for, a new beginning after the storm.
The goal in life is not to avoid every situation you think could put your heart on the line, or has the potential to cause sorrow. I’m not saying you should be self-destructive, of course, but the heart has a wisdom the mind can not always fathom. So trust your heart. Let it be tender, and know that experiencing sorrow does not mean you did anything wrong. All you did was face the fact that you’re a human being.
Welcome to the world!