16 June 2011

On Suffering

The first thing I said her was that I am tired of thinking about my story. I am tired of analyzing. I think it is important but understanding doesn't change my reaction. Understanding makes me do better because I know better but it doesn't make my feel better in an old conflict. I told her "I want to access joy." I thought she would say I was in denial and needed to continue a contemplative look at the past and all it implies. Instead she said, "I agree, you should enjoy your life and have joy. You need tools."

And tools she gave me. Still it takes many seasons of crop rotation to improve the soil. It takes lots of weeding and watering. Lots of practice. Jo always said "practice, practice, practice, it's all practice."

And there I was nearly 17 years later sitting on her couch, that same couch where so many tears and revelations, tools and wisdom came, there I was once again in Jo's office, coming home to mama to help me through the struggle with my mother's chronic illness and my reluctant, guilt-filled, anger-fueled care-giving. It occurred to me that I have always wanted joy and have gotten so much better at having it, really having it. But the vine of guilt grows faster and chokes out beautiful blooms, some buds to appear then never open.

I had been thinking about my disabled brother Kerry. I had not even realized the impact living with him had because it was too deep and too dark to see. I was realizing the guilt I had that he wasn't "okay." I started reading about siblings of autistic, mentally ill, and addicted children (having had all three) and came to recognize the words to describe them in myself, responsible, sensitive and guilty. Not all bad to be sure. I remembered mother would shame me from bad behavior pointing out that my pitiful brother was in the shape he was and how could I "act like that?" She did it the wrong way from the right place of reminding me to be empathetic but because she was so hurt and sorrowful it came out as a guilty dart, stabbing my value, deflating it.

It occurred to me I believe fully that I cannot have joy while there is suffering. How could I enjoy my life while my poor mother was suffering so? And I told Jo. It hit me in a childlike revelation that someone will always be suffering. Mother would die and I would feel bad about living without her, laughing and enjoying my life while her little body lies in a dark box, hot, cold, indifferent to storms. Then there would be Kerry. So simple. I would recognize the behavior in anyone else but couldn't  see my own truth shrouding and informing my choices and feelings. You know what? I am not responsible for mother's illness. I am not responsible for Kerry's severe dysfunction. I am only responsible to celebrate my blessed life because what good does more suffering do? Why do I have to be punished?

Mother died 4 days later. I am grateful for this life-giving realization prior to her death for now I can grieve, I can integrate the enormous loss but I can also live fully.

And then more teachers came to me...


  1. Honey child, honey child, this post was powerful. May all 3 readers learn from it...

    Great photos of the 3 of you!

  2. Love this post.
    So many wonderful realizations that we can all (and should) apply to our own lives.
    Love you!

  3. "I am only responsible to celebrate my blessed life because what good does more suffering do? Why do I have to be punished?"

    I wish, for myself and everyone, that it didn't take so much working through stuff to get these tiny choice bits but my god when they come they change so much for the better. I am so glad you are coping and edging your way to more and more joy.

  4. Hugs Robin ~ Thinking of you. :)

  5. Oh, my God, Robin. On one hand, I pray for more and more joy for you. On the other hand, I thank you for telling the truth about where so many of us live.
    Big, big, hugs and a pinch on your cute cheek (face),
    p.s. Jem, I was you to take notice. There are four of us!

  6. When I posted the comment, my verification word was "tators".

  7. I want to be sitting next to you in each photo, sticking your hands in a bowl of dog water, or whatever, I am jealous I didn't get to be in your life earlier.

  8. Every time I read one of your posts they really make me stop and think about my life and how I want to live it. I hope you will find even more joy as you continue your journey.

  9. You should definitely enjoy life. You deserve it! Don't feel guilty, be happy and know that you are here for a reason. Your brother is so lucky to have someone so special to care for him. :)

  10. oh robin...like everyone else has said before me, your words are powerful and cut right through to the soul. what good does more suffering do? nothing, absolutely nothing. what you have said makes me think, think that joy is what life is all about, not suffering and guilt. we choose. love you wise woman. franc

  11. Live it and love it.... it's the only one you get. (even the crap bits)
    Hugs my friend,
    The Minx

  12. Yes, yes, YES! You do not have to be punished. You are not to blame. Your siblings' limitations are not your limitations. Rise above, little Bird, rise above.

  13. We must find joy in the midst of suffering. Otherwise we would go under.
    And that is not right.
    I wish you joy. Always.



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