Buddha's first noble truth was "Life is suffering." Kind of a downer, right? But what if we do a little word-smithing here. What if instead we say: "Everybody aches from time to time, that's just how it is, but what determines class, and grace, and the size of your cajones is how you choose to deal with it." We all travel from calamity to calamity--and sometimes that's just losing your keys and being late to work, and sometimes it's losing a loved one--but we decide if we truly suffer as a result. Even the biggies, the long horrible illnesses, the debilitating pain, the deaths and the long months afterward, even these can be met with some modicum of grace and skill if we work at it. The circumstances may come flying at us all heater skelter, but we've totally got free reign over whether we let them shape us evermore.
We can minimize the suffering, of course. We can play it safe: stick with the tried and true tempura and never try the sushi, never strap on the skis, never just introduce yourself to an intriguing stranger. You can sit there making your lists and weighing all the pros and cons, then live a life dictated by the scale. And, yeah, you may avoid the bounced check, or the layoff notice, or the broken heart. But at what cost? Not only do you miss all the crazy, hip-shaking, rip-roaring, giggle-inducing, heart-racing, arms-in-the-air-cheering, deep-kissing joys that are out there, but sooner or later no matter how far below the covers you're hiding some shit is still gonna happen to you (believe me on this one, just when you think you might be hitting your stride a big ol' tree will jump right out into the middle of the trail so that you can run smack into it) and now you're too rusty at coping to even deal with it. And would you look at that: now you're suffering.
So here's my mantra: Be All In. (If I could embroider I'd put it on a pillow and post it on Pintrest.) Sure, Petal, pause for just a moment ask ask yourself these questions:
- Will this vaguely crazy action you're about to take hurt someone else?
- Is this so outlandish that it won't even make a good story later, you know when you're at the admitting desk of the emergency room?
- Does it involve celery? (Sweet baby jesus, that stuff is just an abomination.)
If the answer to all these questions is "no" (and I'm as willing to wiggle a bit on Number 2 as I am immovable on Number 3), I just go for it. Balls to the wall. It may go poorly. Hell, statistically it's likely to go poorly. And if I end up flat on my ass I'll turn to one of my friends to plead pretty please get me a winch. And I'll see it as a chance to flex my coping muscles, to build a little bulk on my emotional biceps. But if it doesn't---oh, if it doesn't, and instead it is glorious and I feel invincible and like I'm flying--wasn't it worth it? Doesn't even the slightest chance of it being amazing make it worth doing?
"Life is suffering." I don't remember it, but being born was probably a pretty tough day. Losing my father at age 4 was a tragedy. Failing my first multiplication test was mortifying. Having my heart broken the first time (and the fifth time, and the twentieth time) felt insurmountable. Getting pushed out of a job by an employer too chicken-shit to fire me was a drag. Losing my husband at age 48 was another tragedy. Putting my 17-year old dog down three days later was heart wrenching. Frankly, choosing new bathroom fixtures is no walk in the park. But in between all that are bike rides, and chocolates, and falling in love, and muddy trails, and new friendships, and doing my first handstand in yoga, and the smell of tomato leaves in the summer, and breaking in this sad empty passport, and the smell of the first snow in the winter, and running in the mountains, and puppy kisses, and the sound of crickets in tall grass, and that "good" sore that comes from a long run, and the millions and millions of other things that remind me that life is really not the bad days or the amazing days, but the transitions between them.
Be All In. But seriously, no fucking celery.