A Recovery Blog

This blog is about my continuing recovery from severe mental illness. I celebrate this recovery by continuing to write, by sharing my music and artwork and by exploring Buddhist ideas and concepts. I claim that the yin/yang symbol is representative of all of us because I have found that even in the midst of acute psychosis there is still sense, method and even a kind of balance. We are more resilient than we think. We can cross beyond the edge of the sane world and return to tell the tale. A deeper kind of balance takes hold when we get honest, when we reach out for help, when we tell our stories.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Life Is Difficult

M. Scott Peck begins the first chapter of his book The Road Less Traveled with the phrase "Life is difficult." He also writes "Life is a series of problems. Do we moan about them or solve them?" I, honestly, would like to solve them, but when I don't make headway I worry that when I write here I will just be moaning and repeating myself. I don't want to do that, so I wait.

It's been bitter cold here. I mostly stay indoors and alone, my cats are my company, and the voices, and the computer. I have been withdrawing from human contact again. This pattern of self isolation bothers me, but I succumb to it over and over again. A part of me wants to be alone as long as I can remain creative in some way. I haven't been painting or singing or writing much these last couple of weeks so I felt grateful when I had the urge today to write this blog entry. But what do I want to say? That life is difficult for all of us. We live with the knowledge that our life is temporary and will most definitely end. We live with our own imperfections. And yet, in so many ways, we are very resilient. We bend more than we break. We suffer and yet we feel that joyful pulse of life close at hand. Yin and yang. Sometimes the dark threatens to eclipse the light within us, but we keep on fighting for the right to breathe in and out, to live, to find happiness. This courageous fight is what keeps me connected to other people regardless of how much isolation I impose upon myself. And so I thank you for reading and I respect you for living your life.

My brother told me this week that someone in this community killed himself recently, he shot himself in the head in front of a friend of his who was trying to talk him down. I never met him, but I feel the sense of loss even so. He reminds us how fragile life can be and how stark when we are in a hopeless frame of mind. Yes, life is difficult and there but for fortune go you or I as Phil Ochs once sang. If we allow it we can build on a common bond. Every time I write I'm putting my faith in that bond that we are not so different from one another. Compassion is wonderfully healing. When I read other people's blogs I feel that sense of connection and compassion. We are each creating our own home spun wisdom. We are unique and yet we are the same. The uniqueness makes for the fun and the sameness makes for the bond. It's a good relationship.

So what do we do with our difficult lives? We live them, sometimes with much gratitude and other times with resentment. We are not perfect and I don't think we should strive to be perfect. Perfect is an illusion and good is good enough. I get into trouble with myself when I doubt my essential goodness. I am often examining myself, trying to stay honest with myself, but too much of that can lead to another form of perfectionism. At that moment what I most need is faith. Faith requires that I let go and believe in a higher power.

Sometimes it is hard to believe in a higher power, especially when I'm feeling vulnerable and afraid. Where is God? Everywhere, yet intangible. Sometimes the voices will say to me that there is no God and yet I hold onto my belief. Sometimes the voices threaten me with hell, but I keep reaching for heaven. It comforts me to think that there are people experiencing heaven on earth right this moment. And to be fair, I've had some heavenly moments too, though I often forget that. The essence of life is ever elusive yet always present. The essence is good. I think we intuitively know this and it gets us through the hard spots. We are not lost in some eternal void, we are in something much greater than ourselves. The goodness is in the water, air, food, and light. We drink it, breathe it, eat it and absorb it.

What would happen to us if life were easy? Would that be nirvana? One of the reasons why I respect people is that I know they have suffered and overcome their suffering countless times. I still dream of a world where there is no need for suffering, where everyone is happy, safe, kind and useful, but I can't get around the fact that the negative serves to highlight the positive. Nothing really goes to waste. The brilliance of life is that it offers countless challenges to overcome adversity. And people are doing just that. I'm doing it. You're doing it.

It is comforting to think that the higher power gives us our daily challenges, not to punish us, but to give us opportunities to grow. A bean sprout pushes against the earth as it reaches for the sunlight and so do we. When we first learn to crawl we utilize gravity until we find ourselves standing upright. And by standing upright we develop a taste for the freedom that goes with it. Life is both difficult and it is easy at the same time. It is difficult to learn to walk and yet once you learn it is easy. But with the freedom comes an element of danger because we are all capable of being hurt. The good news is that with faith and determination we can overcome most obstacles. Yes there are wounds and there are scars, but there is also life and life is precious. I feel my discomfort every day, but I'm still glad to be alive.
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