In his op-ed piece entitled The Value of Suffering in the New York Times this past September, Pico Iyer writes: “I once met a Zen-trained painter in Japan, in his 90s, who told me that suffering is a privilege, it moves us toward thinking about essential things and shakes us out of shortsighted complacency; when he was a boy, he said, it was believed you should pay for suffering, it proves such a hidden blessing.” My small suffering last year frightened me; it did shake me up. This year, I feel especially grateful for all I have. I appreciate my blessings, the stable ground they provide me, all the more for having been on momentary shaky ground. And yet, part of me misses the pace my illness and recovery forced upon me, the simple quiet of it, the clarity of my priorities coming into sharp focus. Iyer writes: “In certain cases, suffering may be an effect, as well as a cause, of taking ourselves too seriously.” This year, as I spin about of my own volition, I wonder – is it possible that my definition of healthy is all wrong? That I have been taking myself too seriously? That I have been confusing growth with strength and maturity with success?
As I prepare to pause, I realize that my challenge is to somehow re-create the quiet of sitting all day staring at the sky even as I work, mother, live. To treasure each blessed moment of whatever I’m doing, with the open heart of a dizzy head, while my head is clear. This, if I can even approximate it, will be my thanks-giving. My hidden blessing of constant fragility, cherished.