I do not seek suffering. Absolutely not. No siree. In fact, show me a path of sorrows and I will likely take the other fork in the road.
When I was fifteen, my father prematurely passed away. My older brothers were already out of the house, and my mom shut down into her own shell. I was pretty much left alone, alone, without guidance, and without much love. There was pain. Constant pain. As much as I dislike corny sayings, ‘whatever doesn’t kill you,’ well, you know the rest. In retrospect, that period in my life set me onto a journey of soul-searching; a path that ultimately, years later, would yield a rich spiritual life. I did not chose to go into the fire. But while there, too young to realize what I was doing, I stumbled upon secret doors and dared look inside.
During my teenage years, all I wanted was to have a girlfriend; to love and feel loved. The problem was that as shy and introverted as I was, wishes were not enough. I took no action in this matter. I suffered quietly. When love finally answered my call, I was ready. I was more than ready. Finally, a payoff. And maybe, just maybe, all those years of loneliness and craving, taught me not to give up so easily what I knew in my heart of hearts was true love. Since that magical moment, well over thirty years had come and gone. Amazingly, that first girlfriend and I are still together. True that some days all we want to do is strangle each other… but along that long and winding road, we also learned to wait patiently. Bad moments happen and pass; like stormy days; occasional rain is needed to maintain the ground fertile.
Before my thyroid decided to go hypo on me, fitness and weight control were a no-brainer. If I gained a few extra pounds, I would just watch what I eat for a few days, add a little more to my exercise routine, and ‘puff’, the fat was gone. Those all but forgotten days, watching other people who packed extra padding, I admit to being judgmental. I thought them careless, gluttony-driven, or simply unaware. Nowadays, I know better. We each have a story. Mine is tide to my glands’ imbalance. Others may be related to their psych, illness or other condition I am not aware of. Never judge others unless you are in their shoes, so the saying goes, and their shoes would never quite fit anyone but the person actually wearing them.
There were periods in my life when income was in short supply; when I lost sleep at night wondering how I will pay my employees; how I will meet my mortgage payments. This was enough to cause my health to deteriorate. Stress had settled in as a permanent passenger in my car. Worst still, the light seemed to be off at the end of the tunnel. There was only darkness, darkness and pain. Yet somehow, I prevailed. The ordeal taught me several important lessons; lessons I believe I would not have been able to truly comprehend any other way. I had to swim naked through a half frozen lake so that my bones will be ready to absorb heat by the fire.
And last but not least. People around my wife and I — friends and relatives, were but speaking the words ‘pregnancy’ and ‘kids’, and poof, before you knew it, they were nine months carrying. It seemed so simple for them, yet meanwhile, we were going through seven miserable years of infertility treatments. Time and again our attempts failed, resulting in an empty womb and a broken heart. “What? No kids? And you are in your early thirties?” a comment was once, more than once, made at us by people who did not know what we were going through; “How egoistical of you, to think only of yourselves and your careers.” That bitter lesson in insensitivity remained with me long after our triplets were born; the triplets and the bonus child that miraculously followed some years later. When I meet someone without children, I never assume to know the rhyme or reason. It may be by their choice, but it may also be their greatest source of pain.
Suffering is a great teacher. No one knows the true taste of freedom, like the condemned who had been denied it for the longest period of time. Thus, while by choice I would not pick the path of sorrows, submit to this great teacher I will, and absorb its lessons.
Learned from: a look back at my life’s challenges