Dwelling Within, Not on Suffering

I am a deeply flawed individual.

For every redeeming quality is a lesser crux.

However, each crux is an opportunity, not a weakness.

Without discipline, progress is outside of the discussion.

Accepting challenge will invite suffering.

I will have to learn to dwell with it.

But I do not have to dwell on it.

These are the axioms I began to accept as I first began to temper my manic depressive tendencies.

For many years I was a wreck. I was self-loathing, overly critical of myself and others, constantly at war between pitying myself too much and having no space to love or comfort myself at all amidst real pain. It was impossible to get any goals done consistently.

I worked hard, but I was constantly haunted by myself. Anxiety. Excuses. Pessimism. Wasted thoughts.

Most importantly: I wasn’t happy while I achieved my goals.

So what did it matter I was hitting them? What’s the point of pursuing our ideals if we are miserable on the journey?

Life is messy as it is.

Accepting outside challenges, realising our ambitions, and making long term life goals and decisions based on them only complicates things. Adds to that chaos. A more dynamic life is born of accepting more responsibility. Even though it will bring colour, beauty, and more experiences than the ‘average’ life, it all comes at a price.

Or rather, a trade.

That trade is more challenges. More time. More difficulties. More reflection on how to best adapt to new terrains of struggle, both psychological and professional.

I once thought of the struggles I imposed upon myself much in the same way a child thinks of the broccoli on their plate next to the chicken. (The chicken being achieving a goal of some kind, the broccoli being the work to get there. Man that was a weird sentence.) It’s just something to get through. Something to force down. Then we can get to what we really desire.

But I don’t look at it like that anymore. I learned to enjoy the ‘broccoli’ for what it is. We savour, love, and are even addicted to a variety of substances like coffee because we learn to appreciate its complex flavour. But rarely did we think it was enjoyable at the outset.

What this is about is exactly that. The acquired taste of challenges and even suffering as a result of them.

The contents of consciousness come in wild varieties. We have experiences of jealousy, subsiding rage, of the sensation of conquering fear, trembling before it, and even reflecting on how we ever had it to begin with. Consciousness is a never-ending array of perplexing states.

That’s the joy of being human: the utter chaos of it all. The supreme challenge of organising and embracing it.

My philosophy is simple: some of those experiences, though we may not have a taste for them now, can become things we look forward to.

Partially, this practice of learning to love challenge, to love self-imposed difficulties, is what gave me the strength to walk away from the temptation to end everything.

I do not believe that pain is inherently beautiful, necessarily. Instead, that we endow it with beauty by overcoming it. We instill power, inspiration, and strength into ourselves as we cultivate the will to be better individuals. In whatever capacity or task it manifests itself as … we can’t always be picky with what opportunity we get to grow. We just have to be steadfast in accepting the reality of our current struggle and moving forward to work with it.

The worst thing we can do for developing this acquired taste is to avoid opportunities to take it in.

So much of life is struggle. So much of life is feeling in pain. Sensing (wrongly) that we aren’t good enough. Sighing in a moment of doubt. Wondering if we can be strong enough. Fighting with every inch of ourselves to crawl closer to ideals.

I began to wonder: If so much of life is made up of challenge, if I learned to love it, would I spend more of my life being thrilled to be alive?

As children and adolescents, it is certain that almost all of us shared the same fear:

The Dark.

Yet almost all of us have conquered it. How?

Every time we came up against it, we took the pains to practice being in it. This was likely instinctive to a certain extent, this desire to overcome a pervasive, irrational fear holding us back. The solution was just as natural.

We practiced dwelling within the dark. We decided not to think about what is inside. Not to dwell on the concept of darkness, or more accurately, our fear of it.

Rather, to learn to be, and even enjoy, existing within it.