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Satisfaction VS Suffering

by | Mar 19, 2019

How are you? I ask with deep and real interest. I ask because I wonder how alike we are. I wonder if you are mostly satisfied or mostly suffering. I ask as a woman in midlife. I ask as a human on the planet. I am curious if you would like to feel more satisfied like I do. I wonder if you might choose to notice how in every single one of the 1440 minutes that exist in each day we have just this choice: feel satisfied or feel suffering.

If you are in Portland you have noticed the glorious sunshine and blue skies of the past few days. It feels like a relief. It feels renewing and hopeful.

And also, is anyone else feeling BLERG?

Both can be true, right? I walked in the sun yesterday. I felt the warm wind on my face and I was enjoying it. And I’m also BLERG. That feeling that nothing is wrong, exactly, nothing has “happened”, except things have happened that aren’t happy, and also everything feels a little hard and heavy. You may have seen on FB or IG that I lost a friend to cancer last week. And, I’ve known 2 people in the last few weeks who have died by suicide. There’s a lot of loss in my life right now. Weirdly, none of it is like “close close”. None of those that died were in my day to day, but all were significant in their own way to me and my life. I had to wrestle with MY Inner Critic (who’s name is Francis, by the way) to allow myself to grieve.

Somehow I felt like my grief wasn’t deserved. After yelling at my kids and stomping around the house and being unreasonably annoyed with stupid shit I finally realized that I was carrying around this grief that was buried under guilt for feeling grief. How fucked up is THAT? It felt like I was carrying around an anvil in my belly. Good gravy. When I finally realized Francis was trying to protect me from my deep sadness, I invited him to sit in my lap like a small child (albeit an ugly, troll-like one) and just not worry about how deserving we were to grieve and see what would happen. What happened was we cried and cried and cried.

We cried for the suffering of those that left. We cried for those that are still here and their suffering. We cried for our own deep and more personal losses because grief begets grief. We cried because the world feels scary. We cried because it’s so hard to be a human. We cried because one day we’ll die. We cried thinking about how much pain that will cause my kids and family. We cried because we know there is more loss to come, because: life. We cried for how hard we’ve worked and that we still can’t escape loss. We even cried because it was so sunny outside and we were sitting on the floor crying.

Later, I realized that inviting in deep grief and loss, and really allowing it in its full expression, IS satisfying. It hurts. It’s uncomfortable. It’s ugly. But it’s also a relief, it’s tender, and it’s beautiful. And when I allowed it I could be more gentle to myself and my kids and the world. And if I hadn’t worked WITH Francis or if I let him keep me from what I perceived as suffering, I would have carried this anvil type of knot in my belly and THAT would have been true suffering. I would have pretended the anvil wasn’t there. I would have put on anvil tinted lenses instead and seen the whole world through the grief and guilt and suffering. I would have been as pissy and angry and unreasonable as I had been before the dam broke and I let in the tears.

I listened to the podcast Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell (episode 1). And Kristen Bell is super amazing. She has a saying “happiness or suffering”. I like the word satisfaction instead of happiness because happiness is loaded and can be confusing. LIke my grief…I wasn’t happy in that moment or really even later, but after I allowed all the feels, I was deeply satisfied. 

Here’s the practice I offer to you, the one that I will be doing every minute of every day from now on, (when I remember and when I don’t let Francis drive the bus): every time you are about to take action,, ask yourself if it will bring you satisfaction or suffering. If you want to really step it up even more, try this: the second you notice you are having a thought ask yourself if this thought is bringing you satisfaction or suffering. 

This last one is powerful. It can stop a whole avalanche of bullshit suffering that we all do all the time. Eckart Tolle said that the mentally ill homeless people we see who are talking to themselves and seem completely crazy is exactly what we are doing in our heads, we just keep it quiet. Imagine if we could alleviate some of that nuttiness and have more satisfying moments in our day? I’m game, how about you?


In gratitude. Sam

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