A friend of mine recently posted a video on Facebook.
This video seemed to be some kind of veterinarian (Dr. Andy Roark) speaking at a veterinarian conference, about veterinarian things.
Only, those things were applicable to all of us and I found that his message really stuck with me.
He began by speaking about the different between joy and happiness. That joy is fleeting; it’s unsustainable. It’s an amazing feeling, and it’s often why we do the work we do, but it’s just a glimpse. And happiness is “full of pain.” He said, “Buddhist philosophy says that life is suffering.” It made me think of the far more lighthearted quote from The Princess Bride.
But I had heard all this before. The part that got me was that he said, “The best thing that we can do is choose how we suffer.” He went into an example of losing a beloved pet, and how much grief and suffering that caused him. But it was suffering he chose, and would choose again. He said, he could have chosen not to get a dog to avoid the suffering of eventually losing him, but he would’ve suffered a little each day coming home to an empty house.
And that’s when I got it for me.
Right now, I’m suffering. I’m struggling. Sometimes I’m not sure if I’m happy…but, by this guy’s definition, this is happiness. It’s not JOY all day every day, (which is what too many people think happiness should be) but that wouldn’t make for a very meaningful life, for without suffering there is no joy.
There was one time when I was really breaking down about what a shit time I’d been having slogging through mommyhood, and someone said to me, “…but you’ve chosen this. You wanted this.”
Yes, I’ve wanted to be a mom pretty much my whole life. I wasn’t sure I could physically be a biological mom for an entire decade, but miraculously, here I am. I planned this, I actively participated in building this life. And man is it HARD. Did I want all the suffering that comes with this? Of course not. I don’t want it and I don’t like it, but I chose it.
I chose it over the suffering of not having kids. Feeling like there was something profoundly missing in my life. Feeling like my family was incomplete. Grieving the loss of kids not here. Having a house that was too big, too quiet. Too clean? (Maybe there’s no such thing as too clean.)
Make no mistake, though: just because I chose the suffering that comes with raising kids, that doesn’t mean I don’t get to do just that…suffer. Complain. Lament. Break down. Have regrets. Be human. So yes, I did choose this. But I get to own it, too. Just as I get to own the glimpses of joy that peek through. The hugs, wet kisses, sleepy bed-head faces.
I need to keep reminding myself that joy and suffering are not mutually exclusive. And I need to keep reminding myself why I chose to suffer this way.
How do you choose to suffer?