In the last two years I lost my house, two cars, my mother-in-law, and my cat – all due to events that were beyond my control. I moved 600 miles away from my friends and family to start a new job in an unfamiliar city. And every time I start to feel like I’m figuring things out, life seems to throw me another curve ball.
Part of me is tired. I’m tired of losing the things that I love. I’m tired of not having a sense of home. I’m tired of self-growth and personal development and continually making decisions that scare me but are for my highest good.
I feel like the universe is stripping me bare.
Right now I’m in the process of moving again. I’m selling most of my furniture, giving away books and clothing, and liquidating a good chunk of my possessions. The question keeps arising, “Who am I without these things?” Who are my husband and I without our cat of twelve years? Who are we without our house? Without our parents?
I’m amazed at the attachment that I have to even the simplest of things. The knick knack on my shelf. The ratty t-shirt that I’m reluctant to throw in the trash. The special candle that I light when I’m trying to make big decisions. Who am I without these things? Do these things represent “home?”
My True Self knows the answer to this question.
Home cannot be found in a physical place or in another person. My true home is within me.
Within my soul. Inside of the deepest part of me there is always a space that is centered and grounded, regardless of where I’m living or what I’m doing or who I’m with. I know that this is true. But it doesn’t make life any easier. At least not right now.
Right now, I want my cat to jump onto my desk and rub her head on my shoulder. I want to stop picturing her final moments, right before we had to unexpectedly euthanize her. I want my mother-in-law to appear in my kitchen to make me some amazing goodies instead of my husband living with the image of her passing in his arms. I want my cute little house to still be mine, before our lousy tenants created $10,000 worth of damage and we had to sell it. I want to drive around in my 1997 Toyota Tercel instead of having to sell it because it was old and wouldn’t have made the 600 mile drive to the city. I want my husband to be able to pick me up in his Mazda instead of it getting totaled for no reason. I want to get all of our furniture back instead of selling it on Craigslist.
I was attached to these things. And in this moment, I want them back. I feel raw and open. Stripped of much of what mattered to me.
The day after my cat died, I found myself crumpled on the floor in a pool of tears, gasping for air and aching at the suffering that is life. One of the main tenets of Buddhism is that life is suffering. This is the mystery and the wound that we all carry. We’re here, on this earth, doing our best. But inevitably we suffer. The most enlightened and self-actualized masters are able to bear witness to this suffering, hold it, and continue to live with immense compassion for all beings.
I aspire to this.
But sometimes the suffering just feels so heavy, so unbearable. And let’s face it – my problems are first world problems. People before and after me have suffered atrocities beyond what I can imagine. And yet we keep going.
This is where I start to feel a glimmer of hope. When I realize, in my darkest times, the common humanity that connects us all. We all suffer. We all experience loss and devastation and grief. But we pick ourselves up and we keep trying. Even when trying is something as simple as brushing our teeth when we barely have enough motivation to get out of bed.
When we turn our suffering into compassion for all beings who also suffer, we experience a miracle.
So here is what I would like my suffering to do for you. Today, when you’re on Facebook feeling jealous about someone who looks like they have it all together, or feeling pissed off at someone who’s driving too slowly during your morning commute – remember that we all suffer. The person in front of you might be a different race or practice customs that you don’t agree with or understand – but I can guarantee you that they have suffered. And that “perfect person” on Facebook is wearing a mask.
Today, give someone a hug. Smile at a stranger. Pay for someone’s coffee in line behind you.
Because when the universe strips us bare, kindness is what brings us back. @BethanyButzer
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What random act of kindness have you performed lately (or would you like to perform today)? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. is an author, speaker, researcher, and yoga teacher who helps people create a life they love. Check out her book, The Antidepressant Antidote, follow her on Facebook and Twitter, and join her whole-self health revolution.
If you’d like tips on how to create a life you love, plus some personal instruction from Bethany, check out her online course, Creating A Life You Love: Find Your Passion, Live Your Purpose and Create Financial Freedom.
Image courtesy of Breno Machado.