Listen Now (7 min) | Why make a universe that hurts?
Letting it come through me. Letting it out. Moving to the seaside so I can take my pain and my too much and my questions and my tears to her and let it out with her. Letting her fill me back up once I'm ready for that. Surrounding myself with people who will ask how my spirit is, share how their own is holding up, and bring some flowers or cake or jokes when we meet, even if we meet online. Knowing that life is short enough as it is - if I only consider the Certified Joyful times as real living, I'm doing myself a disservice and cutting myself off from a fucktonne of beauty and grace.
I wish we didn't have to go through so many of the hard things that we do. I am grateful to have guides - of which you are a shining one - to show me possible ways to navigate the rocks and sheer cliffs.
Sending you love and gentleness.
In gratitude, always.
Thank you for sharing this. I teared up. This is so beautiful. This part resonates so hard:
“I decided from the very beginning that I was going to live in gratitude every second I could. I decided to hunt out joy wherever it could be found.”
If I would have been asked what helps me suffer less 2.5 years ago, my answer would have been “I have BECOME suffering in it’s physical form, it is my identity, I don’t even have a human name anymore it’s just: Hi, I’m suffering nice to meet you”. I had spent years in and out of the icu, hospitals, being air ambualnced to yet another hospital to “treat my suffering” just enough to keep my physical body alive. (eating disorder)
Then something shifted. The first thing that helped me suffer less was finally putting myself first, taking a hard look at who was in my life, how the company I kept affected me, how I had unresolved trauma I needed to face, admitting that numbing my pain was actually prolonging my suffering, completely letting go of this dialogue in my head that for years told me “I deserve this pain I’m in”
I cut out the bad company I had, I unapologetically lived my life for myself for the first time, I took responsibility for healing, and not half assing it. And I noticed things starting to shift. The people I started attracting into my life were not tearing me down, but supportive and healthy, my now soon to be wife included.
It was like a light switch was flipped and I remember seeing a sunset for the first time while reflecting on this shift and just thinking to myself “I will never take another day for granted, my life is just beginning, at 32 it is just beginning and that is okay, now go make the most of it” prioritizing gratitude, self love, healing, sunsets, this healthy love I’ve found, and committing to being the best version of myself possible helps me suffer less now on a daily basis, bc even if I have a rough day… this might sound silly, but I always at the MINIMUM can have gratitude for the fact that there is one sunset a day and and that sunset always feels like home and reminds me of the feeling I had on the side of that mountain when I felt free for the first time.
I have struggled a lot with the idea of ‘finding the joy’ and ‘choosing gratitude’ because I’ve always experienced it as a way of diminishing the things that suck. In christian churches, I’ve found that it’s a way of forcing people to overlook and ignore bad things, for individuals but also in communities and wider. I also grew up with a message that I was sick because of my lack of faith and prayer, ingratitude and sin. But no matter how hard I believed and prayed, or how grateful or sinless I was, I remained sick.
Some existential crises later, I have found that I can’t exist peacefully if I have to choose between gratitude and the reality of pain and suffering (personally and globally). I can’t separate them. It’s not either/or, and it’s not but… (‘there is suffering, but I’m grateful…’).
There is tension between suffering and gratitude, but holding that tension gently, like a small bird or insect in my hands, is helpful to me. Accepting that things do suck and that simultaneously life is so sweet. It’s both/and.
I am both sad and grateful. I am both scared and hopeful. This is both difficult and beautiful. Things can be unfair and I can feel angry about that, and I can experience good things at the same time. Neither are diminished by the other, sometimes they are both sweeter because of the other.
I like the idea of making music with whatever comes. I like music that plays with harmonies, with consonance and dissonance. I will remember ‘juicing the sun for every sweet drop’. And the idea in the comments of suffering better. Thank you for your writing 💛
What helps me suffer less? Keeping life in perspective and knowing to my core I have ONLY luxury problems today compared to 98.9% of the world. That's right, 1% of suffering I'll allow myself. I'm not sure if it's the co dependent in me or what, but, practicing acceptance is huge as well as gratitude lists when I'm really dragging that o'l cross around and feeling all poor me-ish. If that doesn't work, the perfectly timed Shriners commercials comes on the tv to help me remember how lucky I am to have all 10 toes and ten fingers that work and are where they belong anatomically. I hope that doesn't sound too crass, it's really how simple it is for me.
I also know I am the maker of much of my suffering most days when I live in my head and not my heart. I have to practice rigorous honesty daily and want to celebrate 22 years of continuous sobriety this coming March. My being honest is a big part of acceptance of what this mere mortal is powerless over. That's enough out of. Peace2u's Always in Gratitude V
Is the intent to suffer less or suffer with grace knowing that each day will bring something different - sometimes better and sometimes worse, but each day we get through it to get a little better.
I was born with a messed up hip and had surgery when I was 5 years old. After that surgery I was in a spica cast for a few months. Despite this, my hip was still problematic and gradually became so painful that walking to do my grocery shopping would leave me in agonising pain for days.
I eventually got a hip replacement, and, like a miracle, the pain disappeared. What was left was a lifetime of atrophied muscles, and my other side over compensating for my bad hip.
But this was my normal and I’d never known anything else, so I never thought too much about it.
Almost two years ago I set a challenge for myself: I decided I wanted to be about to do a stalker handstand. Never having been athletic, and always overweight, this was a lofty goal!
I started journaling my experience at the gym and what I’d thought and felt. It became incredibly introspective about my my messed up hip and how I had dealt with it, and became for me a realisation of a traumatic lifelong experience all because of my dodgy hip bones. Looking back the torture that is a spica cast is still unfathomable to me. The anguish parents must go through to make decisions like these: on the one hand to to inflict such horrors on a child; while on the other their child’s every day is a horrible experience. How does any parent make such a decision.
Occasionally the ‘Why me?’ ‘Why was I born with a messed up hip?’ thoughts surface. But these days I counter them with I’m lucky to be alive and I must make the most of life while it’s here and I’m here.
That I am even alive and was born and lived is its own miracle. I’m the youngest of my siblings, and I was born about 10 weeks premature—which 40 years ago was a medical challenge. To further stack against my odds, is that my mother had several miscarriages and stillbirths. If they survived, as the youngest, I might not have even been conceived. I’m so lucky to be.
Over the past two years, as I have been training to achieve my handstand, I have learned and trained myself to be patient, get through the hard stuff and good things will eventually be there. There will always be some awful days, and days that are regressions, but there will be amazing days too. Honestly, same days the highlight is that my dodgy leg has lifted one millimetre higher than two months ago—yes, the progress can be that slow. But it’s still progress and worth celebrating and living for.
The beautiful thing has been these lessons have moved into other parts of my life too.
Life is hard. The universe throws us challenges and new curveballs all the time. While we might be alone in our own challenges, every other person has their own suffering to contend with. Incidentally, also one thing that has helped has been discovering the many amazing poets who share their lives experiences - how sharing and hearing someone else’s experience makes us feel less alone.
My suffering is reduced through the ecstasy of feeling fully and completely in my body, like a grieving wolf soothed by her own howl. Then, I live to tell the story. My Substack is called Feral Masochism for this reason. I endeavor to unapologetically embrace the unruly pain of being alive. Thank you for this, Andrea. Keep sun-juicin'.
As I await the results of tests, I am aware that your post is the second time in two days I have heard the question, Why would a loving God/Universe create a world full of pain? I am going to hold onto the ideas you and Jo Walduck wrote no matter what the tests show. Thank you both for your words and your timing. So much love coming at you!
suffering has recently come to me to ask more of the question - how can i suffer better rather than how can i suffer less. throughout my life i have praised friction in so many other aspects of my life that have made me stronger. run more, lift more, read more? ... and now for me it's run better, lift better, read better & suffer better. hopefully i can have our kids learn this earlier than i did. and grateful for you and your words as you are often a vocal dinner guest at our house that brings the important discussions and questions that weren't readily available when i was growing up. big love to you and yours.
To wholey feel the feelings. To wholely live the experience. Let them wreck me, so I can build myself anew. Recently, it has been grief over sudden death. Two people I holy loved wrecking me. "I will be okay. I will be okay. I will be okay," The mantra on repeat to remind myself I will be again. To remind myself, in the end, it will be beautiful again.
I heard someone say once “Instead of saying why me, say why not me”. I think that leads to more acceptance of what is happening. I don’t have cancer and the only thing I suffer from is chronic migraines and mental health issues. But just looking at it as this is what I have to accept just like others have to accept something else. It’s just my life and like you I’m learning to be grateful for what is good in my life and not focusing too much on the pain. Accepting it and letting it pass. It’s hard and I’m just beginning at doing this. Thank you for your words.
Well this was exactly what I needed to hear today, thank you Andrea. I’m on a long fertility journey and practising radical acceptance and quietening the ‘whys?’ has been key. I love what Tara Brach says about it (paraphrasing) ‘Accepting every moment as if you had chosen it’. I try to live not by ‘why me?’ but rather ‘why not me?’ Beautiful audio!
I’m a Christian so my faith gets me through it all even though sometimes it’s devastatingly hard. I also love hearing from gentle spirits like yourself because I actually listen and take to heart what you have to say. Thank you.
Simply, THANK YOU… Your words, your voice, your perspective, your delivery… it helps more than you could ever know. Witnessing you be authentically you is all there is. Namaste. 💗
It helps me during difficult times to think of these phrases: " The world is just a place, things just happen, it's not personal." And also this "It's not what happens that matters most, what matters is how you respond, how you talk to yourself about it and how you behave as a result of it"
Thank you Andrea for being yourself. I appreciate you! ❤
Thank you, dear Andrea! So beautifully said! This is the heart of wisdom - to cultivate non-attachment and ever-expand our capacity to see beauty and experience joy and love. We can’t always change what happens, but we can meet it in a way that we choose. You have such a beautiful heart!
Once again, your words have helped me to suffer less. "Expecting the difficult" is a great reframing. Today a sliver of sunshine broke the Portland clouds, and I stopped what I was doing to go and stand in it at the window. Deep breaths in the sunshine and knowing that we're all in this space connected by trying to get through as best we can. <3