Ambitious title, huh? You’ll probably be disappointed, but maybe not. I hope you’ll keep reading anyway.
I had a major back flare up last week. I could barely walk or sit up for two and a half days. I’m still on muscle relaxers and it still hurts to sit up, but not so excruciatingly that I can’t stand to do it long enough to type out this blog post.
Anyway, I’ve been drugged out and fairly immobile for a while now. Just a few months ago, this episode would have rocketed me down into a deep depression and triggered a lot of suicidal ideation, but this time, it didn’t.
So did things get better? Clearly, they did not. Has what failed to kill me in the past made me stronger? Maybe. But I don’t think that’s quite accurate. Not to mention that hardship turns people into bitter assholes at least as often as it makes someone a subjectively better, stronger person.
Last night, I read this quote from the Buddha:
In the thick of the forest is where you will find your freedom.”
It made me realize that the hardship of being stuck in a forest of shit isn’t what makes me stronger. It can merely be a catalyst for insight. If I never spent any time meditating, contemplating, going to therapy, and doing hard self-examination, the forest of shit would just keep making me angry and bitter and withdrawn and miserable. But all that shit wasn’t pleasant, and it drove me to look for something better and to do the hard work to begin to reframe my worldview and tame my reactions to my thoughts and feelings. Currently, Zen is helping me do that.
I don’t expect my life to get “better,” whatever that means. It might. It might not. I don’t consider myself a super strong person. Maybe some others would. It really doesn’t matter. A friend, who is also stuck in a pretty shitty forest at the moment, told me this week that I have a peace about me that is new. I believe it comes from my ever-clearer gaze upon and acceptance of reality.
In the future, I may sink into depression again. I may have suicidal ideations. I may experience bitter rage. But in the thick of the forest, sometimes I find moments of freedom. In the bright light of day, I do too. Today, at this moment, it is there.