What to do when things are not as they should be
To suffer or not to suffer - that is the question.
Last week, we talked about letting go. And, this week I got to practice letting go in very unexpected ways! Don’t you love how life does that for you? Gives you exactly what you need - even when you don’t think you need it.
Maybe the experience will be helpful to you as you notice where you hang on too tightly. There’s definitely a LIFT that comes in letting go.
Speaking of lift - The LIFT - if you haven’t subscribed, do it now so you don’t miss the next issue.
WHEN DISASTER STRIKES
So, remember that high-rise building I told you about in the last issue? Well, guess what? It flooded.
Our unit was significantly impacted by water damage - along with several other units. It will be 4-6 weeks of demo, repairs + construction. We will be displaced during that time because our building is 100% occupied.
That’s the short story.
Oh sure, I could go on and on about the fact that this same thing happened 10 months ago. That the last time it took 3 months for the very same repairs they now claim they will finish 3 times faster.
I could rant about the inconvenience to my life. That I work from home + this is my busiest time of year. That we pay a premium for our ‘luxury’ lifestyle - which is now significantly diminished. That we shouldn’t have to put up with not having an elevator for days on end. That this could have been prevented if someone had done their job better.
I could go on about the fairness or lack thereof in who is paying for what. How incompetently the situation was handled. I could speculate about all of the things that could go wrong during this time. That my cat will suffer. That construction might take longer than planned. That they will do a shoddy job due to the rushed nature of the project. That no one in the management company cares about the residents.
That said - the only real part of the story is the part I shared in the first paragraph. The facts. The rest would be stories I create + tell myself + commiserate with neighbors about until I reach the point of making these stories my truth. My reality.
And why? Why do we do that to ourselves?
It’s been fascinating to watch how different people (including me) respond to an unexpected occurrence like this one. How we get defensive + quickly decide who to blame or who isn’t handling things the ‘right way’.
We look for someone to blame or to hold responsible. We lament about how things are not as they ‘should’ be. We can name all of the ways it ‘should’ have been handled differently.
We are so attached to how things ‘should’ be. We cross our arms, adamant in our truth + insist that everyone else should see it the same way. We rally others to join us in our fight to protect what is ours - our story.
When really that’s all it is - a story. A story we have crafted based on our life experience. Based on our need to justify our own choices. Our status quo. Our view.
Maybe some of our story ends up being accurate + maybe it ends up being inaccurate.
But it doesn’t change the facts.
At best, all it does is add stress + suffering to the situation. At worst, it actually creates + amplifies the exact circumstances you were trying to avoid.
There is a Buddhist belief that “The root of suffering is attachment.”
It’s so true! Whether the attachment is to your lifestyle, your ‘stuff’ or your view of the world, when we are attached to the way we think things ‘should’ be and things are not that way…we suffer.
Whereas, if we were not attached to the ‘should’ + we just saw things for what they are - there is no need to suffer.
The facts remain - sure. But, the suffering part? Gone.
Next time you feel ‘suffering’ - however small or significant it might be - ask yourself, “What am I attached to? What am a clinging to? What’s the story I am telling myself? Did I make this story up? Is it true? Can I be certain it is true?”
I remember being evacuated from our home about 25 years ago due to a fire. We sheltered with family a few miles away that night + I remember talking myself through the facts vs. the story in the wee hours of the night.
We genuinely did not know if our house would be spared. It was the first time I was faced with the idea of ‘losing everything’.
I also remember looking around the room at my family, knowing we were all safe + together. That, even if our house burned to the ground that night, we would be okay. Nothing of true importance would be lost.
And, in that dark + scary moment, I was thankful.
The very same gratitude I felt that night carries with me to this day.
In the midst of this week’s unexpected experience, I was grateful that none of our personal belongings were damaged. I was grateful to have my health + fitness which allowed me to hike up + down those stairs all week while the elevators were down. I was grateful to have good friends so quick to help. I was grateful to have a safe place to send my cat. I was grateful to have a good insurance policy.
And, I’m grateful for the learnings + the personal growth that comes from experiences like this one.
I am also grateful to be able to share this experience with you so you can apply it somewhere in your life for a LIFT.
“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.” - Buddha
This week, notice where you ‘suffer’. Take note of moments when your expectations do not meet the reality.
Can you separate your expectation from the reality? Can you adjust your expectation?
Meanwhile - I’d love to hear your thoughts. Did any of this ring true for you? Leave a comment for me. I’d love to know if this gave you a LIFT in some way.
READ: Six Ways to Decrease your Suffering | Tiny Buddha
READ: How Not to Suffer: the Buddhist Way to Let go of Attachment | Elephant Journal
READ: Three Common Causes of Suffering & How to Overcome Them | Vishal Kataria
READ: Four Liberating Questions | The Work of Byron Katie
By the way, I’m not saying you should never suffer. Or that if you are suffering, it is all somehow your fault.
It’s just a simple reminder that we all suffer more than we need to. In fact, we often take pride in our suffering + wear it as a badge of honor.
There are lots of lessons to be learned in our suffering. Perhaps one of the biggest lessons is just the awareness of what we are attached to - so we can decide whether it’s truly worth the weight we give it.
As far as the flood goes, I can’t wait to share the rest of the story with you! It’s unfolding in real time by the minute! And, in this case, I’ve chosen to keep the suffering to a minimum. Maybe even flip it into an exciting adventure.
See you next week?
P.S. If you enjoyed this post, please shout it from the mountain tops by using the button below. And, if you’d like to stay in touch in real time during the week, you can find me on Instagram @redefiningkaren or on Facebook @cleanbeautyadvocate.
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