Yesterday, as I was taking a leisurely stroll through my neighborhood, a thought occurred to me — one that had not occurred before in all of my 48 years:
Perhaps I deserve a gentle life.
My life has not been gentle by any stretch of the imagination. Not physically, emotionally, intellectually or spiritually. I was raised by and around rough people who themselves were raised without tenderness.
Virtue in my family was directly linked to how much you could bear; how fearless you were (or appeared to be); and how little you needed.
I learned to treat my body, and by extension my whole life, as if it were unimportant. I learned to ignore pain (or at least pretend I do).
Strength and gentleness were considered diametrically opposed. You can’t be a ‘gentle survivalist’ can you? You have to be willing to suffer, endure and do anything by any means necessary (even abasing the body) to survive.
I realize now, of course, that gentleness *is* strength. Because it requires self-control and discipline; measured responses; and an internal strength that overcomes existential fear and allows me to live my ideals no matter what anyone else is doing.
But of course, it’s easier said than done after years of seeing myself and the world that way. I wasted so many years being needlessly strident and tough with myself and other people. I considered kindness a ‘reward’ and compassion a limited resource.
To the point of causing harm to myself because I didn’t know how exist without being mean to myself.
To the point of being *suspicious* of kindness and love when they’ve been offered genuinely.
Which is not to say that suffering isn’t part of life. It certainly is. Suffering occurs naturally as we are impacted by things out of our control: old age, death, illness, loss, disasters, etc. We don’t need to create *more* suffering (or take on suffering that isn’t really ours) in some attempt to ‘toughen up’.
I’ve slowed down these days and I’m enjoying long moments of gentle silence. I’m sitting still so that my senses can fully appreciate the infinite joy and peace that surrounds me.
It’s always been there, you see. I was just trained to believe that the world is a certain way. I was trained to see only the bad things and use them as confirmation for a world view that wasn’t even mine to begin with.
And reasonable hope (I did find some).
This is the life I deserve. This is the life YOU deserve. These aren’t add-ons for life. They are essential for getting the best out of our very existence–from ourselves and from others.
Anyone who tells you differently is trying to manipulate you into suffering on their behalf.
Abusing other people is abusing yourself.
Abusing yourself is abusing other people.
p.s. Martyrdom is a scam.