Before I looked into the Reflecting Pool on Sunday I have to confess I took a dive into the Sea of Unconsciousness and mud-wrestled with suffering. It was not a pretty sight: lots of venting, whining, arguing in my head about my current life circumstances – bemoaning that *I* didn’t sign up for *this.* “This” meaning the need to “take care of” my sister for the past 6 weeks (and probably 6 more) - which I have written about before, so I won't reiterate the story... :)
My husband patiently listened and allowed me to vent and whine, and then as usual offered up the wisdom that stopped me in my tracks – that stopped the mind from its self-centered indulgence of suffering. He said:
“What makes you think that you’re entitled to have life different than it is?”
Whoa horsey – now that’s the perspective that stopped the gravitational pull back into the subconscious *belief* in a life of being victimized by life’s circumstances – creating suffering and misery. Excuse me while I wipe the mud off my face, straighten my clothes and get back up from the mud hole. It does happen you know, when we least expect it – we are blindsided by our own emotional investment in suffering – as if we were entitled to it.
Ah s0 – yes, I ask – what *does* make me think that I’m entitled? What makes me *expect* that life will go as I had envisioned… And isn’t it this sense of entitlement that causes this mud wrestling – this suffering? Seems so looking back on it.
Hours later I got another view of this sense of entitlement when the phone rang and it was my husband’s sister who literally takes care of their mother who has Alzheimer’s. My sister-in-law is struggling with having to care for her mother, as well as her mother’s loss of cognizance and awareness, AND with her mother not being who *she* wants her to be. I could empathize to a certain degree, although not totally. She is obviously resistant, struggling and suffering. That I could relate to. So I offered my empathy and understanding – knowing how life can take us in unexpected directions. And then I offered my husband’s words of wisdom *thinking* it would help. They were met with indignation and a declaration of disagreement because her *belief* is that we are *entitled* to be happy, to have life the way we want it, as if it was an expectation that life should fulfill. Oops.
And that’s when I heard it again – the *root* of suffering: entitlement and expectation.
As we shared our mutual experiences my sister-in-law then said: “But you *chose* to take care of your sister” as if that somehow lessened what I was experiencing. That pushed a few buttons. :)
My experience is – the “choice” was made already by life circumstances. There was no one else to “take care of my sister.” It was actually not a “choice.” There was really no choice to be made. I just stepped up to the plate to do what needed to be done. No heroics. Life presented the circumstances and I showed up. Not willingly at first. How could I *not* show up!? How could I turn my back and *choose* not to do this? That would have been the choice it seems – to resist where life was going, how life was unfolding – to say no.
My real choice, as I see it now, is in not creating suffering and struggle around what I am being asked by life to do at the moment.
Admittedly that’s been challenging - accepting life as it is, without getting down in the mud and bemoaning my experience…
But even in the mud experience a jewel is offered– a discovery is made: I realized this week that when I am with my sister there is no *thinking* that life should be different, that *I* shouldn’t have to do this, that *this* should not be happening… etc. None of that happens. I am just there, doing what needs to be done – present… And I don’t mean to sound magnanimous here. It’s really not about me at all. It’s about the experience. It all unfolds the way it does, on its own. And I actually find myself *enjoying* being with my sister, *engaging* differently. Wonder of wonders…
The new “awareness moment” now is that when I say “yes” to life as it is, and meet people where they are, there *is* a sense of equanimity that arises internally – despite my moments of mud-wrestling. Eventually the need to oppose, wrestle, resist, and fight with life dissipates – as well as the sense of entitlement. A different rapport with life emerges, one that is more embracing and accepting. This feels much better than mud-wrestling… sigh…
The adventure continues! And more discoveries I’m sure…