“Life is difficult”, wrote M.Scott Peck in 1978. This simple sentence reverberated in the Collective. “The Road Less Traveled” sold more than 10 million copies. There is a cold comfort in the famous one-liner. For most of us, life is difficult. It is brutal, unfair, painful. “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” ( Macbeth )
Life, as The Buddha said, “is suffering”. It takes enormous courage to face into the onslaught of “slings and arrows of misfortune” – some of us run as fast and as far as we can. Some of us numb our rage, our disappointment, our bewilderment. Some of us go through the motions of living, dragging the ball and chain of our fear, murmuring positive affirmations, buying organic, diligently going to the gym, meditating to mantras. There are times in our lives where we must pare away the myths of traditional religion. When we must question old models of spirituality and cultural conditioning. There are times when we must embrace our own flawed humanness, and alone, we must blaze a trail through the dark woods. Stare the Monster in the eye.
To be Whole is not easy. To mine the psyche and bring to the surface All that we are, requires scrupulous integrity, and spiritual discipline. There will be days, weeks, even months, when we may wander, lost and thirsty in our aloneness. When some inexplicable, savage event sends us spiralling into an abyss of unreachable despair. When we ask ourselves, over and over again, “what’s it all about?” Today, to remind you of Who you are, I share with you, a spoonful of sugar – the fierce wisdom of Cheryl Strayed. On February 14, 2012, Strayed revealed herself as “Dear Sugar”, the formerly anonymous author of an online advice column at The Rumpus.
Cheryl Strayed departs from the agony aunt formula, and shares her own struggle and angst:
“The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.
“One Christmas at the very beginning of your twenties when your mother gives you a warm coat that she saved for months to buy, don’t look at her sceptically after she tells you she thought the coat was perfect for you. Don’t hold it up and say it’s longer than you like your coats to be and too puffy and possibly even too warm. Your mother will be dead by spring. That coat will be the last gift she gave you. You will regret the small thing you didn’t say for the rest of your life. Say thank you.”
Habit dulls our minds. We complain, and begrudge. We’re haunted by the ghosts of our past, tortured by what we could have, should have done differently. We look through the narrow prism of our lives at what is missing, and fail to see what is there.
So often it is a calamity, a rending heartbreak, a debilitating disease that rips away the predictable map of our lives, rendering us lost and afraid, without familiar landmarks. Yet, if we look up at the stars, not down at our feet, we will see a sparkling sky that stretches into eternity… And as we walk, one step, one day, at a time, we come to sense a deeper awareness of what we have failed to notice in the jingle jangle of our compromised lives: the acts of kindness and love that sprinkle our days like peach blossoms, the honey-sweet oblivion of a restful night’s sleep, after nights of dry-eyed awakeness; the mist that caresses the nape of the morning, the smell of toast, the cuddle-comfort of a cup of tea.
Suddenly, the savanah stretches before us, an undulating sea of golden grass beyond the walls of familiar repetion of routine that entangles, chokes our clarity, blurs our sense of proportion. Tentatively, we begin to walk differently upon the earth, recognising the sacredness of each experience, glimpsing the Divine in a dew-spangled spider web, a scudding cloud, the china blue of the sky dome. Knowing that from smoke and ashes, new green shoots will grow.
So, today, return once more to the soft space within your own heart. Give the world – and yourself, another chance. Sometimes you just have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again. Remember Who you are…. And Celebrate.