Haven’t Got Time for the Pain

I have got to wrap my mind around this thing called happiness. The Tibetans say that every human being wants first to be happy. I find this oddly strange. For doesn’t that desire arise simply in comparison to the option of suffering?

It’s not that I don’t feel like I’m happy, but it has never taken up residence in the forefront of my consciousness until recently. Before that, service to others lorded large, crowding most anything else out of the frame. It emerged with motherhood and ripened in my practice as a medical intuitive. But even prior to those times when I was young and care-free, was I happy? Was I, in fact, ever happy?

Casting back after I left the house of my parents and was on my own, I discovered a serious girl, save when she cut loose by partying. Somehow substances provided an excuse to lighten up, but I always felt horrible the next morning. As if I had trespassed onto some forbidden ground. A territory others could freely tread, but not me. You think I would have learned, but I suspect few of us do until we’ve had a few years and heartaches under our belts. Happiness was, after all, just a word.

Why now is my attention thus riveted? We run a guest house, among other endeavors. Last night I was speaking with a return guest who has lodged with us a few times in the past. Someone for whom we have quite naturally acquired fondness. If she’s fifty, I’d be surprised. We were talking about the stress we’ve all been under since the economic collapse, and she casually mentioned that she’s pulled all her money out of her retirement accounts, taken six months off work (as my mind reels with images of her as a derelict older woman living on a pittance somewhere) – and, oh. By the way. She’s dying. Of congestive heart failure. You could have heard my jaw hitting the floor. No recourse but a transplant at this point, and she’s decided not to go with that. Personally, I’m in accord. The heart is, after all, a place of our own feelings, not somebody else’s. And ever since Christian Barnard transplanted a baboon heart into a human being back in the ‘sixties, the whole idea of having another’s ticker beating in my chest has made my skin crawl.

Suddenly and profoundly, certain themes snapped into focus, while others that once held sway blurred into the background. Insignificant.

I believe myself to be optimistic, conveniently declassifying disruptive ripples of pessimism into cynicism. Again, distinctions are rapidly dissolving as never before. And I realize I need to be happy. I want to be happy. Perhaps the Dalai Lama is right, though I wasn’t aware of the significance of inner sunshine on my horizon until now. And isn’t now all we actually possess, moment to moment? We can’t hold onto the past, cannot accurately predict the future. All we can capture in our two vulnerable human hands lies in this very moment.

I think of Carly Simon singing in that large clear voice of hers, Suffering was the only thing made me feel I was alive. Thought that’s just how much it costs to survive in this world … Was that me? Is that really what I believed, up until recently? And now, at fifty-eight years of age, can I allow myself to feel something cleaner and more precious; less tongue-in-cheek – and still deem it authentic? And if not now – when time seems more fleeting and far less certain than in the bold days of my youth – When?

I think, Today I shall begin. Yes, I think I will. For there is no other time but the present shimmering squarely in my sights. There is, in fact, no other time at all.

15 thoughts on “Haven’t Got Time for the Pain

  1. A compelling incite ,it is against the “system ” to indicate your happy, during an audit ,or maybe at work no corner desk for you ,(you’re happy, you said so) this is trained out of all of us , you keep your happiness to yourself, indoors where it belongs. Keep trying, feel it in the heart when you altruistically do the right thing. I like to remember Will Rogers ” … just a kind word if you please ” ( you’ll forgive the lack of accuracy, please )

    1. Jimmy, how interesting you bring up a wholly different yet similar perspective. Conditioning is another branch to this tree, I think. Societal, parental, whatever. And we swallow it and only many years later, realize the size of the hook. Thanks for your comments!

  2. Bela,

    Great perspective as ailways. You have been able to add a completely new dimension to our search for the meaning of Happiness. Or did you mean a heightened state of self awareness? Like you, I now need to chew my cud on all I have imbibed from this post.

    Thanks and God Bless.


    1. Thanks so much, Shakti. Yes, heightened states of self awareness seem, for me, to lead to the questions. And MORE questions! It’s funny too, just when I think I know myself pretty well, I realize I’m only beginning on so many levels to understand. Blessings to you and yours, Shakti!

  3. Buddhism teaches that suffering is caused by our egos interfering with our lives. If someone hurts my feelings I feel terrible and suffer the pangs of pain. But if my ego were not involved I would be interpret it as one person’s interpretation, which I would not personalize and take to heart.


    1. Ronnie – thanks for that offering and understood. For me it’s more having been keyed into the suffering of others – from children to clients and humanity in general – that gave me such a serious bent. I greatly admire the Dalai Lama and others who are able to smile in the face of the blatant knowing of it – still striving to help others but also to be Happy, as it really must add light to the world when we are able to do so.
      Cheers and thanks for taking time to comment!

  4. today is a good day to begin, and then tomorrow we will begin again, its ok, to know happiness we must have sadness and happy is fleeting, but WONDERFUL! c

    1. C, thanks so much for your thoughts. And you are right – like any recovery, it’s One Day At A Time … so far, so good! I’m really striving for it at this point, because the alternative remains too bleak to contemplate further!

  5. Good column. Kirk’s bro got a heart transplant 2 years ago. A new life he was born with a bad heart…. Rubella baby. So now for once, he is running on all cylinders. Hugs. Carol and Kirk in oregon

  6. My spiritual teacher says happiness is the perfume of life.

    One blessing of aging is knowing that pain serves a purpose, but I don’t have to hang on to it or wallow in it. Inner work is my antidote.

    I’m sending a blanket of soul-healing, comforting, golden light to your guest. I so respect her choice – though we have to be looking at our own reality to know ours.

    1. Amy, thanks once again for your comments. Perspective is everything, isn’t it? So subjective. Thus I respect this gal’s choices as I would my own. And I’m sure many are learning from her to hone on into their own lives in a more profound way. The gift of another’s suffering, perhaps.

  7. May be the whole purpose of our being here is just to be happy…but all of our conditioning have just added layers and layers to that state which is already there within us.I guess we can eventually find it , but because we’ve let it get buried , we’ll have to work at extracting it and removing all the defilements ,pretty much like mining:-)

    1. I think you may be right! I’m a big observer of Nature, which is ever in a state of simply Being. And if the Tibetan Buddhists are right, that’s about as close as any of us can get to bliss.

      Thanks for coming by, reading and taking the time to comment!

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