Making Sense of Life's Ebb and Flow
It's Always Something
Last week I had a few days that I found myself feeling quite down and very lonely. I had been at school and had reached out, a bit tentatively, to a few of my classmates to perhaps do something socially. Nobody was biting, so I just came home. As I left again to take the dog for her walk, a car pulled up at the curb and my daughter's mother in law called out to me. She and two other ladies were on their way to the local State Fair. I was pleased that she stopped to speak to me, but as they drove away I had this ache that I didn't get invited to join them and so I slipped a little further into my funk.
I started thinking about how few friends I have locally, and how I was feeling very vulnerable and lonely to not have any plan for my afternoon. As the dog and I walked, I could feel the tears filling my eyes and a lump in my throat. I felt like the tears were dangerously close to falling down my cheeks as I tried valiantly to hold them back.
About that time I saw three homeless folks across the street. In the neighborhood where I live, there is a section where I often see one or two homeless people. Many of them talk to me, and they ask after my dog. Some of these folks will call out "I haven't seen you in a while" or ask me "How is Honey?" after my dog. In the 13 months since I moved to this neighborhood the sight of these people has been challenging for me.
On the one hand it makes me feel very sad that these people have no home. It also fills me with anxiety and a bit of shame as I have so much more than they have. But, I always speak respectfully and treat them as I would wish to be treated.
On this particular day, with my mind so full of misery in thinking of myself as friendless and alone, I had a bit of a different experience as I approached this trio of homeless folks. The one man called out to us, and I pulled myself out of my misery long enough to wave and return his greeting.
It is then that the thought hit me that we all have our lot in life; we all have a cross to bear of something that is painful. It is just different for different people!
The Common Denominator
As I made my way home I was thinking about my sadness of having no friends to do things with and feeling so lonely and reflecting on what the strife must be for my homeless friends. I was noticing that though they have no home, they have each other! I have seen these groups at different times, and many times I see so much camaraderie and companionship. I've witnessed affection being exchanged and laughter.
Now, I am not suggesting that I would trade places with these people who have not even a place to call home! But, I'm realizing that while they are without a home, they are not without companionship and friendship. I have a home, but find myself bereft of friends and companionship.
My problem is no better or worse. But it is my problem. As being homeless is theirs. Now, we could argue that being homeless is a much worse fate than having no friends. And, it truly is a devastating situation for those who find themselves without a home.
But, my point is not to try to assign a hierarchy of misery to our respective plights but rather to respect that for each of us, our suffering is very real. In the long term, being without a home presents a much bigger problem than my complaint over feeling friendless. But in the moment, pain is pain! My misery over being without people was real and poignant and it hurt.
Life is like a box of chocolates.....or something like that
I guess it becomes a bit of an existential dilemma then; to understand or to make sense of life's little irony's. I can't pretend to know or to solve the plight of homeless people, or to have a solution for any of the challenges that plague us during our life time's.
What I do know is that we all have something that we have to overcome. By that I mean, life is not perfect and into each life a little bit of rain will fall. I personally like a bit of rain, it's the monsoons that get to me! But, seriously, I think it's just the nature of life to be a mixed bag. Would you trust a life that was always perfect? I don't think that I would; I'd always be waiting for the other shoe to drop.
I think it's meant that, just as we have the darkness to contrast with light, we have sorrow to contrast with joy. How could we even identify the emotion of Joy were it not for having had sorrow? If the sun shone 365 days of the year, and was a steady 78 degrees, it might feel like paradise, yes? But might it also start to feel monotonous? Or boring? Or annoying? I think a day here and there of rain, or wind, or clouds is necessary to really appreciate the sunny days.
Life is a marathon! There are twists and turns, hills and valleys, and it requires endurance and pacing to make it through. Just as the runner prepares for the race, so we must be girded daily to take on this thing called life.
Sometimes we are the windshield, and some times we are the bug! It is what it is.
For me, I think being open minded and patient are key skills to have for survival. And if one truly wants to enjoy this big old smorgasbord called life, then one might need to be a bit tough too.
While I have never had to be homeless, I've had my share of drama, pain and loss. At times I've wondered if I were being punished for the severity of losses and trauma's that I've endured. But, looking back I think maybe we are given exactly what it is we need in order to grow and develop. If we believe in Karmic law, and past lives, then it's easy to think that maybe we go through some of the particular strife we experience because it is what's needed to make it out of this life and onto the next. Not everybody subscribes to this theory and I'm a bit on the fence myself. I like to believe in Karma, and I do like to think about reincarnation and think how nice to know that what I didn't figure out in this life, I can return and do better in the next.
And if that's too big to swallow, then perhaps it's simply a matter of growing for this life only. I like to think that each of us has the opportunity to take the lessons life gives us and grow and become the best people we possibly can be.
I have since recovered from my sadness of the other day, and am back to counting my blessings. But, I am also open to knowing that the good days will be interspersed with "bad" and not so good days and that is OK. I'll be fine, and so will those homeless folks I saw on the street. We are living our lives and doing the best we can.
And maybe that's all there is; living each day, one at a time and taking it in stride. Tomorrow is another day.