None of us can escape suffering in life, but we can shape how we respond to it
By Ken Dam, Representative
Sometimes, when it rains, it pours. Your mother-in-law has a heart attack. Two weeks later, your best friend is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Shortly thereafter, you find out you need emergency surgery and will be out of commission for three months.
And you think to yourself, what else can possibly go wrong? This is not fair. Can’t the universe spread the rain around more evenly instead of downpouring on me? It’s time for some sunshine, dammit.
While feeling cursed by life is certainly understandable and often warranted, I have personally found it helpful to try and adjust my own expectations.
I have often expected life to be good. By default, I expect that those in my close circle of family and friends will continue to be healthy and happy.
And then life throws a dagger to burst the bubble.
My wife and I recently watched Stutz on Netflix. It’s a documentary by actor Jonah Hill featuring and highlighting the work of his therapist, Phil Stutz. In it, Stutz explains what he calls the “three aspects of reality”: pain, uncertainty, and constant work.
What a nice and comforting message for a relaxing Friday night on the couch, eh? But seriously, there is an aspect to his message that does bring comfort to me.
Pain, uncertainty, and constant work is the norm. They are not inconvenient interruptions to a life of happiness and ease.
As I get older, my understanding of this has certainly deepened, aided no doubt by my own life experiences and witnessing the realities of life faced by others. In my work as a CLAC representative in the healthcare sector, I have watched and walked alongside numerous members facing incredible challenges.
Recently, while sitting in a grievance meeting with a PSW, I heard first-hand of the huge financial, physical, and mental challenges she faced. As she struggled to find the right words through her tears, it was clear to all of us that she was suffering.
While the reasons for suffering are often different, we are all united in the fact that we do suffer. None of us can escape this. Or control it. But we can shape how we respond to it.
I won’t try to offer any trite statements on how to do this in a short blog. But if we want to grow as humans and become resilient and empathetic people—despite our suffering—I think a good place to start is mere acceptance.
Now I am going to go take a vitamin D pill.