Suffering Can Bring Out the Best in Us

There’s a lot more to making good lemonade than just the lemons.

Everything is relative.

And a matter of comparison.

You can’t have light without the dark. You can’t know happiness unless you’ve shed some tears. You don’t appreciate what it feels like to be loved if you’ve never been alone and felt longing.

Suffering is the same. If we’re never deprived of something, how can we ever appreciate what it’s like to have it in the first place?

Suffering has a way of weeding out the stuff we don’t need and bringing what is vital into view for the first time.

If everything were good all the time, then the important stuff would just blend in with the rest of the trivial stuff. You wouldn’t know how good you had it because you never had it bad. And since last March, things have gotten mighty miserable.

Times like these are the kind that tests us, and if we can rise to the occasion, it will make us more resilient. Everything takes practice.

Life owes us nothing. It’s up to us to learn to navigate the rough terrain and darkened roadways.

Consider this a time to build-up your patience. It’s a rare virtue and something that will never stop serving you. I have a lot of work to do on this front.

It’s tempting to want to blame and complain. You may want to curl up in the fetal position and hide under the covers in the fetal position. Or fly away to Never Land. I’d love to join you.

But we can’t. The choice is to accept and make the best of things, use this time for something productive. Or waste it kicking and screaming. To paraphrase a Buddhist saying, “It’s like standing at the edge of creation shaking your fist.”

Stupid and useless.

What’s the lesson life is giving us?

First World Problems

Compared to many others, we have first-world problems. We will survive this pandemic. We will be well-fed, have water for drinking, bathing, cleaning our clothes.

And don’t forget binging your favorite shows on television.

Many of us will imbibe wine, beer, or something stronger while binging.

We are mentally strained for sure, but our basic needs are being more than met. Like me, you have first world problems.

We can’t see our friends in-person or go out to eat. We can’t go to the movies, theatre, or sporting events. Our leisure time activities are no longer options for us to enjoy. But it’s temporary.

The world is saying “no” to us in a big way. And we are stamping our feet in protest.

Yes, there are other problems that are not associated with pleasure. We can’t visit loved ones in care facilities, hospitals. We can’t accompany them to appointments for treatments. And this means those we hold dearest may be going through hours of chemotherapy be themselves.

Here’s where we need to master the art of comparison in a big way.

If I know this, you should too. I am not an optimist. In fact, I’m quite the opposite, but even a chronic complainer like me can see the light and know it’s still there. And getting closer.

Our loved ones going to hospitals are getting care, and at this point, we need to be grateful. COVID is eating up resources at hospitals, and doctors and nurses don’t have time to care for other patients with critical and terminal illnesses.

Elective surgeries are once again in danger of being cut until the COVID curve declines. And to say “elective” doesn’t mean the surgery is for something trivial. It just means someone is choosing surgery.

So if you or someone you care about is getting it, be grateful.

We have zoom, so we can at least see the faces of those we love. This means we have computers and can afford them.

First world problems often have first world solutions.

Thank goodness for technology.

Down Time

What are you doing with the time you normally spend with friends? We need contact. It’s almost like being in solitary confinement. Or confinement with the same people day after day after day.

We can’t get away from one another because there’s nowhere to go.

Think back to when you had no time to yourself. A time when you were running around at breakneck speed, and there was barely time to get six hours of sleep. You longed for free time to yourself.

Time with your family.

Well, here it is.

Sometimes getting what you wish for is not what it’s cracked up to be. Now we complain that we have too much time.

We are suffering from deprivation of our routines and social circles, the routine that our job offered. We are being forced to be by ourselves and enjoy our own company.

It’s a gargantuan change in everything all at once.

And it stinks. So learn to hold your nose.

What Can We Do About It?

We can wallow. In fact, I highly recommend it. Get it all out.

I do this daily, but not for the entire day. I then call my friends and family and wallow. They wallow in return. Then we laugh about it. Why? Because there’s nothing we can do to alter events.

We can only alter ourselves.

We have to remember that what is happening is not happening to us. It’s happening around us, and we get to choose how we react and how we let it affect us.

And maybe the big lesson is all this is teaching ourselves to see what goodness we can glean from tragedy. For those who have lost people to COVID, there’s that, too. My condolences.

For the rest, it’s time to make the lemonade. We need fresh lemons, knives, water, sugar, and of course a pitcher of some sort. A refrigerator to keep it cold. Ice. Glasses.

So do we make the lemonade or do we let the lemons rot?

I have a friend who posts jokes on Facebook throughout the day. They are filled with humor and sarcasm that make people laugh, even if it’s only for a minute. But people laugh, so it’s a minute less of suffering.

I can go out, refuse to wear a mask, and scream that my civil rights are being violated, or I can see what the local food bank needs and make a donation. Yes, some people are hungry.

I can bemoan the fact that I couldn’t spend Thanksgiving with my family and that Christmas will most likely be no different, or I can put together care packages for the homeless.

And do you know what the most sought after item in these care packages are?

Socks.

I have a draw full of socks, yet this is a precious and rare commodity for the homeless.

True, I had to look for opportunities to help out, but there is a lot of need out there.

People are suffering more than a lot of us. People in our communities, maybe even people we pass on the street without a second thought. You never know what someone is going through.

Sort It Out

So if you’re the only complaint is that you’re bored or unhappy about the way things are, but everything else is intact, then give from that place of stability.

There’s something to be said about making lemonade from lemons.

Be grateful.

Let the worst bring out your best. Open your mind and it may dawn on you that this will end. Change is constant and things will get better.

So practice. When life opens up again, you’ll be ready to embrace it to its fullest.

And you will have had months of practice.

Marilyn is a writer, yogi, and spiritual medium. Her favorite people are animals, especially ones that meow. She loves the ocean and hates one-use plastic.

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