“There will always be suffering. The trick is to not suffer over the suffering.”
– Alan Watts, Zen master
One of my best friends and I have a sick tradition. We get excited about each others’ hardship. One of us will be sniffling through an out-pour of angst about how wrenching a particular life lesson is, and isn’t it crazy how when it rains it pours with shitty news, and turmoil, and big life do-overs. You know, those excruciating disappointments and Tough Spots — the kind that require a friend to help you navigate.
And then the listener on the other end of the line replies, “Holy suck factor. But, you know … I’m kinda excited for you.” And then the other one of us blows her nose and says, “Yeah, I know, it’s great.” And we’re not joking. But we laugh at that absurdity and our sheer effing moxie, and then the other person goes back to whingeing and processing while the listener resumes her role as the receptacle of angst out-pour.
And we believe it. We believe in the divinity of the suck factor. It’s an implicit, and lived, and affirmed understanding: that the universe trades up. That as Camus and kd lang said, “In the depth of winter I found in me there was an invincible summer.” Or as Nietzsche and Bruce Willis put it, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
Or at least more expanded. And that’s very exciting. And excitement about getting to the other side is just what you need to get there.