I’ve heard fear described as “False Evidence Appearing Real,” and also as “Fuck Everything And Run.” However you choose to look at it, most of the time it isn’t helpful. The anxiety, anticipation, worry, tension, and stress I’ve felt in the last week has caused my hair to fall out, upset my stomach, disturbed my ability to eat and sleep in a healthy way, depleted my physical energy and health, triggered strong emotions, and shook my sanity. None of these things has been useful, none of them altered the outcome, changed reality in any way, other than weakening my ability to deal with it.
So I am trying to stay in the moment, stick with what’s really going on right now. I am trying to stay open to both the tenderness and the terror. When I stick with that, I can take a long walk with Dexter in the morning, and in those moments, he doesn’t have cancer and isn’t dying. I can watch him resting after and know that he is happy and well, in this moment. That’s all I’ve got right now, and I am trying my best to stay with it–to know what I know, to touch what is right in front of me.
There’s also a watermelon growing in our flowerbed. We didn’t plant it on purpose. It’s probably seeded from one we composted last summer.
Life is glorious, but life is also wretched. It is both. Appreciating the gloriousness inspires us, encourages us, cheers us up, gives us a bigger perspective, energizes us. We feel connected. But if that’s all that’s happening, we get arrogant and start to look down on others, and there is a sense of making ourselves a big deal and being really serious about it, wanting it to be like that forever. The gloriousness becomes tinged by craving and addiction.
On the other hand, wretchedness–life’s painful aspect–softens us up considerably. Knowing pain is a very important ingredient of being there for another person. When you are feeling a lot of grief, you can look right into somebody’s eyes because you feel you haven’t got anything to lose–you’re just there. The wretchedness humbles us and softens us, but if we were only wretched, we would all just go down the tubes. We’d be so depressed, discouraged, and hopeless that we wouldn’t have enough energy to eat an apple.
Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other. One inspires us, the other softens us. They go together. ~Pema Chödrön