Lessons about suffering that fit on an index card

I had been reading some books that were jiving well with my worldview, “The Shadow Effect” by Deepak Chopra and “Snake Oil” by Becca Stevens. Deepak was making a case for a collective unconsciousness and Becca was advocating for the most beautiful form of community.  Both spoke on suffering, but due to the work Becca does with Magdalene and Thistle Farms*, she has seen more than her share.

I finished her book and I sat up in bed and wrote my most profound epiphany onto a notecard in felt tipped pen. I wrote my best explanation of why suffering is necessary, (basically to force us back to our community) and somehow what I wrote made me think that if I could just read it over and over I might welcome future suffering a little more and fight it a little less. I used the notecard as a bookmark and it ended up in my brief case and somehow got wet which meant the pen bled and it is hard to decifer now…

When I pulled the index card out and found the smear of words I kind of laughed to myself. What a great representation of what goes on with my brain. In a quiet, inspired moment I was able to find one of my deepest truths, but I didn’t record it with appropriate significance in my brain.

There is an episode of Parks and Recreation  where Ron Swanson has to watch a recording of himself explaining why he should run from Tammy II. Ron knows she’s no good for him at most times, but in the middle of a Tammy Tornado, he needs that clarity that can only come from hearing it from his own mouth.

That’s kind of how I envisioned my index card working. I was moving it from book to book only because I loved the tickle of delight I got reading it and thinking, “Oh, that’s good.” I thought that if I kept it nearby, it would pop up when I truly needed the reminder but not because I’m in the middle of a suffering storm and particularly need it. What kind of reminder will my smear provide?

After thinking of the irony, I started to feel some fear. There are lessons each bout of suffering will teach us, but knowing anything about suffering is not going to prevent it from happening. I wondered if the message was also that I’d just have to relearn the truth next time.

I don’t want to go back to square one. I have been working hard to build myself into a strong woman. I am practicing gratitude. I am paying attention to people who show me how to find grace, peace and love while enduring it. By creating difficult goals and then achieving them I am bolstering my self image as a strong person. In a race or a tough workout when I think, “I’m not sure if I can hold this for very long” I work with that fear and practice focusing on each minute.

Maybe I will forget how suffering can teach me important things and send me where I need to be. Maybe it will just be so tough next time that I’ll have to sit in some darkness. No matter what, I’ll have the memories of these beautiful, happy times and all those skills I’ve built for myself.


*Becca Stevens runs a home in Nashville, TN called Magdalene for women who would like to leave a life of prostitution and drugs. The women follow the 12 steps program while re-building their self esteem in part by having a job creating products for Thistle Farms. Most women have seen intense suffering in their lives and Becca believes that love can heal anything.

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