I recently finished “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck” by Mark Manson (10/10: Would recommend). It is a really solid self-help book… though it is more of an anti-self-help book. I actually plan on re-reading it here in the next week or so and trying to set up some action items to implement the book’s philosophy, but until then I am going to continue to ruminate over some of the concepts discussed.
There is one in particular that I can’t get out of my head, the concept of suffering. Maybe it is because I’ve been getting a bit into Buddhism or maybe it is because the “what makes you happy/passionate/excited” question never worked for me. Regardless, Manson flips the script and instead of asking “what is your passion?” he asks “what are you willing to suffer for?”.
Suffering is inevitable, it can’t be avoided, it is part of life, we evolved because we suffer. We suffer because we want, crave, desire, long for things we don’t have, and when we acquire them we just move the goalposts. But suffering isn’t necessarily bad for us as individuals or as a species. Suffering leads to finding food, crossing continents, having sex, climbing mountains, working in soup kitchens, growing a garden, and flying to the moon. Humans unique (mostly, as far as we know) ability to envision a better world and feel longing for it both causes our suffering and has allowed us to become all we are. You are suffering and will continue to suffer until the day you die, and so will I.
So, the question remains, if I could choose how I wish to suffer, what would that look like?
At this point in my life, I have come up with three ways I wish to suffer. I’m sure there are more as I continue to dive into my mind a bit and refine things, but these are the basics.
My body: I am willing to suffer to make my body into something that is healthy and sexy. I could claim the work I go to is only about health, longevity, etc., but the truth is that I want to feel sexually attractive and working on my body helps that. Vain? Superficial? Shallow? Maybe, but it is also the honest truth. I like sex and flirting and new experiences and my opportunity for those increase if I have a strong, healthy, fit body. So, I must suffer. I forgo the savory and sweet foods that are unhealthy, I will go through the painful process of exercising, pay for a trainer, and fast regularly.
My partnership: Relationships involve suffering. Though, it is mostly indirect suffering (hopefully). I am prioritizing one person in my life when I crave more variety. I forgo adventures and travel because I desire my partner with me. My life is filled with a million “what if” scenarios that don’t involve my partner because I have set myself on a path with her. Now, I don’t regret it at all and my choice to be with her has opened up a million new scenarios that would never present themselves if I was single, but choosing is still suffering. I’m willing to suffer for us, though, more than any of these others.
Assisting With Death: This is the newest one to come to the surface but it has been an undercurrent in my life for some time. My training with the International End-Of-Life Doula Association has sparked a desire to suffer for this cause. I am willing to spend hours of my limited life learning, training, and volunteering to help ease the transition for both the family and the dying person. I’m willing to get out of my shell and learn to be more personable, compassionate, patient, mindful, and confident. I’m willing to spend money and time to expand my skill set (particularly massage) and I’m willing to suffer the failures and setbacks that come from starting a business.
So. Suffering is unavoidable, but I can direct my suffering to what I believe in instead of letting it direct my life. In fact, we all can.
Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a Snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail?
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Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”