Rest and Suffering –
Yesterday afternoon, on my way back from an out-of-town meeting, I passed a delivery truck. Its hood was up, flashers on, obviously broke down and not going anywhere. What caught my attention was the driver. He was laying down in a shady spot, one arm for a pillow and the other holding a cellphone and talking. He wasn’t nervously pacing, angrily kicking tires, yelling into the phone. If he could’ve fixed the truck I am sure he would have. If there was a way to deliver his goods he would’ve completed his goals for the day. Instead, he was resting because there wasn’t anything else to do but wait.
I struggle following this man’s example. I like rhythm, order, control. I don’t like surprises, detours, or delays. There is certainly a part of that which comes from having a Severe Anxiety Disorder. Mapping out the day so it can be more easily managed is part of my therapy. However, I also believe it’s very human to want control, to get things done in a timely manner, to feel like our lives are not always a random gathering of happenstance.
Wisdom teaches us that the distance between acceptance of what happens every moment and our expectation of what should happen every moment is where suffering is found. Knowing how to rest in the unplanned, perhaps even unwanted, experiences of life is one of the toughest and most valuable lessons we can learn.
It floated effortlessly in the air across the opposite lane of traffic. It caught my eye as it passed over the left lane of my side of the highway and a gust of air lifted it up just enough to get over the hood of my truck and became stuck on my antenna. “What are the odds?” I thought, “that this plastic bag and my truck antenna would meet at the exact time and place where it would be snagged and now dragged?” It made an awful noise flapping in the wind. There were too many vehicles on the road to stop and of course a traffic light or stop sign was nowhere to be found. The antenna bent abnormally and because of it’s style the bag was gripped and not going anywhere. Finally, I arrived at a red light and when the truck came to a halt the plastic bag slipped from the antenna and blew away to aggravate someone else.
After the light turned green I made my way to an appointment and reflected upon the way life brings both good and bad things into our path. We aren’t expecting, nor could we arrange the blessing or perceived curse coming our way or manipulate the circumstances to embrace or avoid what we encounter. What we have the power to do is move forward, accept what comes and hope for the courage and humility to deal with the things which float into our lives and attach themselves to us.
Several weeks ago I transplanted four trees. Three of them thrived while one languished. This was my first time moving trees from one spot to another so before I attempted the feat I contacted a friend who has a lot of experience with plants, trees and all things green. He told me to get as much of the roots as possible, give it plenty of water the first couple of weeks and to be patient. “It takes a while for some trees to adjust. The leaves may fall off, it may look dead, but give it time.”
I followed his advice with each tree but one of them was growing out of the side of a hill and I couldn’t get as much of the root system as I would’ve liked. I watered them and waited. The others flourished as expected but the fourth one withered. My wife and I had several conversations about the likelihood of its survival. Each time, however, we ended the discussion by deciding to follow my friend’s advice.
Last weekend we thought the limbs looked greener on our struggling tree than in previous weeks. On Tuesday we spotted what looked like buds on some of the limbs. Over the last couple of days the leaves have begun to emerge and unfurl. That which seemed dead was indeed alive.
I am thankful for my friend’s guidance, the ability to trust someone smarter, the lesson in patience I am continually learning and the wisdom that separates experience from expectation.