Monthly Archives: May 2013

The Last Word on Suffering

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I had an epiphany. I finally understand the crucifixion.crucifixion

It happened like this.

Event One:

I was staying with a friend who told me that she had trouble sleeping. After several days, I asked if I could make an observation about her inability to find sleep. She said “No, I’d rather you didn’t. A lot of people have given me advice about insomnia, and they don’t understand my problem.” I answered “OK. That’s why I asked.” But she continued, and I listened in order to try to better understand her perspective. (I’m paraphrasing)

“Sometimes when there is an experience of deep trauma while you’re sleeping, and then fear of what might happen again, you just can’t let yourself be “asleep at the wheel.” I found her self-awareness and ability to communicate her exact dilemma inspired, but her inability to want to heal it perplexing.

Conclusion: We choose to hold onto our suffering and we believe no one else can understand it.

Event Two:

I watched a woman be a total bitch to a guy who liked her. She actually laughed at him. He turned to me – a person he’d met a few days before  –  and shrugged.  I shrugged back.

Conclusion: People deliberately cause other people to suffer through their unkindness.

Event Three:

I recently related a story about how I was humiliated as a kid. As I told my friend about it, I realized I could still feel the betrayal of people I had believed were my friends. It still brought my eyes to the verge of tears and my throat clenched as my breathing grew shallow. I finished my story in a cracking voice.  I was that kid again. I am that kid still.

Conclusion:  We are all children, wounded and not knowing why.

Catalyst: My 50th Birthday

As this big day approaches, and coincides with the arrival of my first grandchild, I’ve taken to reviewing the journey so far. More to the point, I’ve actually started a travel journal. So, as a good middle-aged adventurer, I’m creating my bucket list.  But, before I could start thinking of all the things I want to do, I needed to make a list of what I’ve already done (and thereby prove I am indeed ready to kick the bucket).

After logging the places I’ve been and cool stuff I’ve tried, I thought I should record other milestones of my life. What have I experienced that other people haven’t or won’t? What traumas have I survived?  I thought about that last one for a few minutes. It’s a long list. And I’m very grateful to say Everything. I’ve survived it all. Not only that, but I’m thriving, happy and at peace. I’m glad I focus on the good stuff because boy, I’d be totally sad if I just thought about all that other crap. And then I questioned the Universe – Why do people hold on to their pain? Why do they cause others to suffer? Why do we tolerate witnessing this abuse?

And the answer came:  Because they don’t get it. People feel alone in their pain yet are too afraid to share it. They even feel that no one could possibly understand their suffering.  They believe that their grief or loss or heartbreak is somehow unique. They insist on describing – sometimes in great detail – all of their symptoms. Often they repeat this list over and over until they believe that the symptoms are the cause of the pain. They hurt others and stand by as others are hurt to reassure themselves they are not the only one suffering.

So back to my original point – the crucifixion.

Bottom line: It seems to me that the only way Jesus could stop people from wallowing in their own ego-driven self-pity long enough to be kind to others and not perpetuate the inhumanity we inflict on each other was to set the bar.  It’s the all-time-great decision of one man to say:

“Look, no one’s suffering is bigger than mine. I totally can relate. Get over yourself. We all know pain. We all have witnessed cruelty. Once and for all, you haven’t suffered any more than anyone else, just differently. If you need an example, look at me. Been there. Done that. I get it. I might not know your particular brand of pain, but then again, you don’t know mine. Just know that we share it. Now stop it. Quit your fuckin’ bitchin’ and put on the big panties. Focus on all you are, have done, and have survived and go help someone else. You’ll be amazed how happy you’ll be when you just do that. Forever.”

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You Say It’s Your Birthday. It’s My Birthday Too.

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“Not the Barry Bonds, Mom. Ok? Not the Barry Bonds.” Barry_Bonds_follow_through

It’s been twenty years or so since my son Dylan said that.  Something had ended up broken – probably due to “just messin’ around” – and restitution was owed. Usually, I’d cover what losses were incurred, but for whatever reason, this time I had told him that it was coming out of his money. He smugly replied that he had no money. “Easy fix.” I said “You have baseball cards. I guess we’ll have to sell one of those.”  “The Barry Bonds” referred to the acrylic-encased prized rookie card.

Bonds is now considered to be one of the greatest baseball players of all-time. He has a record-setting seven MVP awards. He is a 14-time All-Star and 8-time Gold Glove-winner. He holds numerous Major League Baseball records, including the all-time Major League Baseball home run record with 762 and the single-season Major League record for home runs with 73 (set in 2001), and is also the all-time career leader in both walks (2,558) and intentional walks (688).

But that’s not what made him special. Not to Dylan. He was special because he was born on July 24th.

That’s a big deal you see. It’s Dylan’s birthday.

Also born on July 24th? Alexander Dumas, author of The Count of Monte Cristo, Dylan’s favorite book.

I remember when he discovered the fact that people who had accomplished great things had been born on his birthday. A look came over him, a look of simultaneous amazement and pride. The look conveyed “Why not me?”

It’s been all downhill from there.

Dylan was convinced from that point on that being born on a day that special was proof of the magnitude of his own destiny.

And who am I to judge? Just a parent… trying to build the confidence of her eight-year-old. So yes, I agreed that being born on July 24th was indeed a most fortuitous event. The universe clearly had big things in mind to have him arrive on such a day. And that’s what I told him “You’re Dylan. And the Universe loves you.”

He’s a grown man now… married to his college sweetheart, expecting a baby girl next month. He works in the industry that has always fascinated him – Finance. He restored a bargain-priced foreclosed house into a very comfortable home in the mountains. And he is, by all accounts, the “nicest, most even-tempered guy” anyone has ever met… at least that’s what people tell me.

On his wedding day, one of his guests asked “Dylan, man, you have it all… a great house, a fantastic job, and now a beautiful wife. You just seem to get everything you want. How do you do it?” With his characteristic laugh and big smile, he replied, “I’m Dylan and the Universe loves me.”

All because of that one special day. And what do we know about birthdays? We all know birthdays are like… well, they’re like opinions… everybody has one. So who are the greats born on your day? Maybe it’s you.

“You say it’s your birthday

Well it’s my birthday too, yeah

You say it’s your birthday

We’re gonna have a good time

I’m glad it’s your birthday

Happy birthday to you.”
~ The Beatles