You Don’t Have to Pay with Your Suffering
I used to be mystified when people didn’t leap. Risk, schmisk.
I’d been through a lot of shit. All the horror, all the anguish — I survived it all.
So I knew I could survive it again.
So, when I was 21 and wanted to start a coffee shop with zero help? What’s the worst that could happen? Whatever it was, I’d been through worse.
A year later, when I was burned out and grappling with serious mental health issue– why not sell it at a loss and burn my credit rating and go to Europe? I could fix it later! I’d fixed worse!
When that dude looked like a bad choice in partners, or even just not a very smart one, so what? If it went to hell, I could put my pieces back together. I’d done it before.
Why not loan that person all my money? They were desperate! I’m inventive and can live off nothing!
Running up debt on credit card and ignoring my career for the sake of being different and having “experiences”? That’s what artists do! They court destruction and then write canonical classics about it!
Having a baby with a good-hearted person who, alas, had a seriously underdeveloped sense of personal responsibility! NO PROBLEM! I can do ANYTHING!
I really didn’t understand prudence.
Or that there’s a difference between taking risks and embracing self-destruction.
My faith in my own resilience could have been a super power…
…except that it was not accompanied by self-respect or self-love.
It was NOT matched with care for my own being.
Resilience is awesome when it’s companied by a desire for self-preservation because you know you’re worth it.
So, that was my 20s and 30s. I either actively courted disaster or at least didn’t avoid it, because I knew I could survive anything.
That default-to-disaster took a while to undermine.
My hyper-resilience and my steadfast lack of personal precaution was a response to childhood sexual abuse — if I could survive that, I could survive anything — and part of a desire to really, truly live. To not fall into traps of conformity or just let my life happen to me.
But slowly, slowly, the sense that I didn’t need to suffer to live my life started to grow in me.
I started having lived proof that I could get things I wanted without having to endure godawful pain.
I started to think the pain was NOT worth the pleasure or the shattering. Even if I could put myself back together, later, maybe it wasn’t necessary to break in the first place.
Maybe my personal destruction wasn’t the price of admission.
That was the story of my forties. Realizing that I didn’t have to pay catastrophic prices for incremental steps forward. Living that truth.
There was a meme I saw a few years ago that light-heartedly captured the spirit of my new conviction. It went something like this:
Too-tight pony tails.
Shoes that hurt.
Let that shit go.
Let the suffering go.
And now, as I turn 50 in March, what started to dawn on me in my forties has now become my non-negotiable foundation:
I no longer pay unnecessary prices.
Because the truth is, all the things I thought I had to earn with my suffering were available to me without it.
And the cumulative, compound interest on deciding to pay for what I wanted with my suffering — it’s a LOT.
I’m feeling it right now, with literal physical pain.
I was experiencing mystery health issues for about eight months before I got a diagnosis this fall: lipidema.
It’s something I’ve had my whole life, undiagnosed, but only recently has it come with a breakthrough of debilitating symptoms that are impairing my mobility and creating a constant backdrop of pain that is exhausting.
And although the Canadian universal healthcare system is basically excellent, it does not really recognize lipidema or its treatments as A Thing.
So I need to go elsewhere — Germany, the United States — for treatment. And pay for it. Tens of thousands of dollars.
And I will find a way to do it.
Because I’m worth it. My life is worth it. What I have to contribute is worth it.
And because I do NOT have to suffer like this.
Suffering is not an option I accept, any more.
So this year, to support my wellbeing — and to stop paying unnecessary prices for a good life — I will be aggressively business-ing and self-caring. Shamelessly. Enthusiastically. Constantly.
You’re going to see a lot of selling and a lot of resting, from me.
Because catastrophe and self-abnegation are not the price of admission, or the precondition, or the guaranteed outcome for a good life.
We don’t have to accept them and we don’t have to pay unnecessary costs.
Let’s be militant about NOT paying those unnecessary prices.
Let’s be militant about not suffering.
I often urge us to conspire to create a future in which we all flourish. Let’s also remember to create a present — a right now — we can love and live in, too.