I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve been following the “Spiritual Exercises” of St Ignatius of Loyola. It’s learning an approach to prayer & meditation which is Bible-based, hence Christian in its approach. I began over a year ago. At that time I was pretty good at dedicating an hour a day to prayer time, journaling afterwards, and doing my night time reflection on the day. Along the way, however, this became impractical. Now I am continuing in this path, but it would be more correct to say I’m “praying with the exercises” as opposed to actually going through them. This was a good solution for me, and I was happy that I could accept this transition without feeling like I had failed.
To help you through the exercises, you have a “spiritual director.” My director, M, isn’t so fond of that term. I think she prefers to be considered a guide, mentor, or friend. In any case, she has been a wonderful companion along this journey. She pushes me when I need to be pushed to go into more depth about things that I would rather avoid, and she is loving and compassionate when the storms break.
Recently I went to visit M and check in. Things are fairly stressful here with DH’s unemployment situation and myself being on leave (so no money coming in); the market nosediving and employment opportunities becoming more scarce; and the usual stresses of dealing with food allergy, other health issues, and daily life (like keeping the house tidy, a constant struggle for me). As we were discussing it I presented it to M saying “it’s not as bad as it could be – we have savings we can access, and I’m starting to job search … we have family that would help us if it got really bad …”
At this point she stopped me and basically said “You need to acknowledge that you are suffering. Don’t diminish the fact that this is hard for you. This is your suffering and it is real.”
I felt a kind of release when she said this. Perhaps it gives me permission to be sad, to hurt, and to feel uncertain about the future, without diminishing the fact that this is a painful time. It is definitely true that others are going through far worse times than us … people in war-torn countries, or those who are starving, homeless, or watching loved ones perish. I cannot imagine the magnitude of their pain and it is not fair for anyone to be going through these things. (In fact, in comparing events in my own life to where we are today, I would say that infertility was a more painful experience for me than our current situation – but I think DH would say the opposite.) Perhaps what M was saying is that it’s not about measuring whose pain is greater, but accepting that sometimes pain is part of life – and doing things to help others or ourselves when we can – but that recognizing our situation it is an important step.
This phrase has been going through my mind lately: “It is what it is.” Good, bad, fair, unfair, whatever – it simply *is*. I think this probably comes from some of the reading I’ve done on the Buddhist approach. It’s comforting in a way because it takes “evaluating” out of the equation. This phrase helps me to accept and recognize life as it is now.
I’m not sure I’m at the point yet where I can say I’m truly embracing this time of stress and uncertainty, and welcoming the lessons it has for me. (I think this comes both from the Christian & Buddhist readings?) I might just be stuck on acknowledging that this is suffering, and it is our path for the moment. But at least I can say that it is real, it exists for us, and it just is.
I was in a store today and they were playing “Everybody Hurts” by REM – it just seemed so in tune with where I am right now. I thought I’d include the lyrics below:
When your day is long and the night,
The night is yours alone
When you’re sure you’ve had enough of this life, well hang on
Don’t let yourself go, ’cause everybody cries ,and everybody hurts
Sometimes.., sometimes everything is wrong,
Now it’s time to sing along
If you think you’ve had too much of this life, well hang on
‘Cause everybody hurts, take comfort in your friends
Everybody hurts, don’t throw your hands, oh now,
Don’t throw your hands
If you feel like you’re alone, no, no, no, you’re not alone
If you’re on your own in this life, the days and nights are long
When you think you’ve had too much, of this life, to hang on
Well everybody hurts, sometimes
Everybody cries, and everybody hurts, sometimes
But everybody hurts sometimes so hold on, hold on, hold on,
Hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on,
Everybody hurts, you are not alone