I don’t have to look far to see people who are a lot worse off than I am. My best friend just broke up with his partner of three years and his heart is broken. He is the midst of the kind of sadness that literally takes your breath away and robs you of your sleep. A colleague at work struggles with her young daughter receiving a possibly life threatening diagnosis. My brother is living with a currently untreatable cancer. Turning on the news, a whole other level of suffering is exposed. My problems are very, very small.
Having this perspective is certainly helpful . . . most of the time. Yet, at times my minor problems can cause me some major suffering. Right now, I’m pretty miserable at work. Depending on the day, I feel unappreciated, bored, paranoid and/or isolated. It’s not a pretty way to spend eight hours a day. After my mistake of last week, I’m still feeling pretty wobbly in regards to my reputation at work. Which combined with generally scary news about the economy, sends me into a minor panic about my job security. I’m not having fun.
It’s truly amazing how much suffering we create for ourselves because of this attachment to a picture we have of ourselves in our mind. In my mind, I am smart, I am capable, I am likable. Yet, right now for the bulk of my day, five days a week, all that is in question. Others question it, and now I question it. Of course, I have friends I can call that will assure me I am all that and a bag of chips. Lately, it feels like more and more I’m needing that reassurance and I’m reaching for my cell phone on my long drive home to hear the voice of someone, anyone who cares about me.
At work, when I can, I like to listen to dharma podcasts. My favorite is Ajahn Brahm out of the Buddhist Society of Western Australia. He’s a Brit who has become a monk in the Thai Forest Tradition. He’s got a wicked sense of humor, and doesn’t seem to be big on the whole piety thing. In the talk I listened to yesterday he was saying “suffering is asking from life what it can never give you.” That’s it, isn’t it. I’m asking for the rest of the world to buy into how I view myself. I’m asking of myself to never make mistakes. I’m asking everyone to like me and “get” me. If someone told me that that were their expectations of themselves and the world, I would tell them that’s impossible, and it’s their silly expectations that are making them suffer. Look in the mirror, you silly LazyBuddhist, look in the mirror.
This next week I’m taking a week off of work. Do some work around the house, read a book, sleep in, take the cats to the vet, and then finish up the week with a lovely weekend in Carmel with my best friend. Life really isn’t so bad, is it?