A New Year!
A couple of nights ago I had a wonderful dream. In the dream I was in the desert with a friend. It was a hot, desolate place, eerie, sparse and empty. I have never been to the desert but I imagine it's a lot like my dream. My dreams are always vivid and I can still feel the heat on my shoulders from the sun and the presence of my companion as we sat together looking over the sandy expanse.
In that dream I remember remarking that the desert was like life. In the difficult, sparse and lonely moments we often find the greatest beauty. Would an oasis be as beautiful were it not set against the backdrop of the barren and solitary desert? Would the green of the valley be as appreciated were it not a retrieve from the harsh cold crags of the summit?
During the loneliest period of my life I wrote my first novel. The emptiness provided the space I needed to do that work. It filled such a gap that most people wouldn't have been aware of the pain in my life. I was barely aware of it myself, throwing myself into the narcotic that is my writing. It was during that time that I discovered what I was supposed to do with my life and where my focus should be.
It is difficult to understand that one can be in pain and still find the most amazing joy in life. The understanding of the difference between pain and suffering often evades people but if you look around you will see joy in people in even the most dire circumstances and find examples of where people have pain in their lives but somehow manage to move beyond it and avoid the suffering.
There are great gifts in the lows of our lives. First of all there is the joy that comes from overcoming them. Have you've ever been in a situation where it felt like the executioner's axe hung by a thread over your head? Then, while you waited for it to fall, the situation resolved, the axe disappeared and freedom from that stress dissolved. If so, you understand this joy. Most of us can find an example of this in our lives. It puts a new glow on our world, a sense of gratitude we hadn't had before and it gives us the lessons we need to learn to experience growth as humans.
Another advantage to the periods of desert in our lives are the opportunity to discover, without a doubt, who loves us. In any situation, we will have our supporters and our dissenters. We will have those who claim to be our friends when we are at a peak in our lives and who bail on us a the first sign of trouble. We come out the other side of those times with a firm knowledge of those who stood by us and those who let us down. We understand who it is that picked us up and brushed the sand off and said,"I still love you" and those who walked away, or worse yet, those who gave us a kick as we lay in the arid dust. And as painful as it can be to discover these truths, they are invaluable as we grow into the person we are to become in life. It affords us the opportunity to surround ourselves with authentic love only and lessens the likelihood of our suffering alone in our next time of hardship.
In any , even the worse ones, we are given the choice of how to live it. I recently read the autobiography of Theoron Fleury, Playing With Fire , a Canadian hockey player who was abused sexually by a coach and grew to be a hockey superstar plagued by a need to mask his pain behind drugs, alcohol and multiple affairs that ended two marriages. When you get to the part in the book where he stops it's a very cliche quantum moment. He looked at himself in the mirror one night while in a lot of pain. Faced himself instead of running for a bottle. Stared the man he was in the eyes instead of running for the glow of cocaine or the arms of a stranger to help him through. Instead he went to bed.
That next morning he woke up and said, "it's gone." He no longer had the need for the obsessions he had had and now after 10 years he no longer drinks, does drugs and hasn't cheated on his wife again. He said in the book that he decided it was time to look the pain in the eye, face it down, and move on. So he did. Now he is clean, helping other men face their pain from similar situations and even better, he found joy and happiness in the pain he'd lived with his entire life. The pain is still there but he no longer suffers.
Every year at this time we feel we have the opportunity to resolve to change something at the beginning of this man made thing called a new year. It's a silly thing really when the true changes in our lives come with a decision made in the inspired moments of our lives when we learn a lesson that is gifted to us as we sit in the sand.
Perhaps this year I find an oasis. Or, perhaps this year I will spend some time in the desert. We never know these things. What I do resolve to do this year, is to look for the beauty in whatever landscape I'm gifted. To be grateful for those who hold my hand and walk with me and give a drink to those whose thirst is greater than mine. That is the best anyone of us can ever do.
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