Prompt: As you may have gathered, the theme of this year’s Reverb reflective writing challenge is Alchemy. This was my word for 2015 but it has been so rich and evocative that I may just keep it for life. Just the idea of alchemy makes me curious. Like, what if you had to give someone a recipe for how to make a YOU? What major ingredients are required? What method do you recommend? How would your je ne sais quoi be recreated?
I had a reading a few years ago with an intuitive counselor. Kind of like a psychic, I suppose. She told me that when I was born, the experience for me was something like a thermal shock. The best way to describe that is to think about how sometimes when you put a block of ice into a glass of water, it cracks and makes that loud popping sound. It’s because the temperature of the water and the ice cube are so different, and the extreme stress of that difference causes the ice to crack. The object entering the new environment can’t withstand the stress of that difference.
I have thought about that a lot since she said it. That’s not to say I “believe” what she said about me, just that it’s an interesting thing to contemplate. And even if that isn’t exactly what happened, there’s something about it that feels true. Maybe I took a Bodhisattva vow at the very end of my last life, and was surprised when I was born again, shocked by the reality of what I’d promised — to keep coming back, to devote myself to easing suffering until there was none left. Maybe being born at that particular time was too much of a shock — during the Vietnam War, four years after Kennedy was assassinated and only five months before Martin Luther King would meet the same end — not that I know if reincarnation is even real.
What I do know is true is that I’m a highly sensitive person and an introvert. This can make navigating an experience so inherently uncomfortable in a world so full of other beings incredibly difficult. The first part of my life left me very confused. I tried to do things the way I thought I should, but it just didn’t seem to work out. In this next part of my life, I somehow was lucky enough to find practices, (yoga, meditation, writing, and dog), that enabled me to meet confusion and suffering with wisdom and compassion. And while it’s easy to regret the time I spent struggling, the struggle galvanized my understanding, deepened my knowing. Without it, I’d be ignorant of the ways we all struggle, and as such, I wouldn’t be much help.
I suppose the secret ingredient for me is suffering. I don’t mean to say that it was a gift, or that it was somehow my fate or even necessary. What I mean is that I would not be who I am, where I am, if I hadn’t suffered, if I didn’t have to learn how to meet that suffering, to withstand it, to go on, to not give up. I am stronger because of it. I have clarity because of it. I am still here in spite of it.