Stop Wanting Bad Things to Happen To You


The wound is where the light enters you.



I've been through some tough times. Since you've been reading this blog, you know about the more recent life experiences I've had, at or least the ones I've shared with you.

This isn't where I go into long stories about other things that have happened to me. 

It is, however, where I ask you to reconsider what's happening for you. Consider the experiences you're having are crucial to your development and evolution.

I know it might not feel like that. I know the pain and agony you're experiencing might make you want to run the other way. You may feel so bad, in fact, that you find yourself wishing that bad things like this would stop happening to you.

I'm here to say that you should stop wanting that. Even though I get why you feel that way. I've felt that way many, many times.

During my first breakup, the daily pain was agonizing. I couldn't run or hide from the loss and grief I felt. I got up and went to work every day, sometimes spending the car ride sobbing and arriving early to process with my friend from down the hall. And then the first bell would ring, I'd wipe my eyes and the kids would come in and they never knew the truth at all. They didn't need to, they were 13. I was 24. I look back and applaud the maturity I exhibited, the courage to face the pain and still meet my obligations.

There have been times I wasn't able to do this. There have been times where I left a job or another situation because I wasn't up to the task of bringing strength and courage. I just wanted something easier. And wow, did I learn from those experiences, too.

Something I've gotten from my Buddhist practice, aside from the amazing sassiness of Pema Chodron, is the awareness that the bad things won't stop happening. It's not like I can climb a tree and get away from it all like I could when I was a little kid. I can momentarily, but the respite is short-lived. That's something very real and inescapable about change--it happens in bursts of hard and easy, just like the rain and the sun. The trick to thriving is to keep that in mind as much as possible.

I was reminded of this recently when I went on retreat. I was there and some aspect of my life was challenging and I kept sitting with this thought that here I was on retreat and I should feel blissed out. And then I realized how silly that was. I wasn't on retreat in this beautiful room with incredible food prepared for me to escape my problems. The purpose, if I'm doing the work right, was to dig more deeply into those problems. The beautiful setting and meal prep was to take just enough distractions and responsibility off my plate to be present to what I wanted to needed to address.

If we really want to change something, the first step is to investigate and explore the problem that requires intervention.

But all this can only be possible if we stop wanting bad things to happen to us. If we wake up pissed off every Monday, complaining about the guy who cut us off in traffic or the way our coffee wasn't made correctly, we can spend our whole lives finding things to complain about. If you haven't noticed, they keep happening no matter how much we complain.

What would be possible if we stopped complaining? What would we see if the "bad things" became ways to practice more courage, optimism or patience?

What if we got curious why "bad things" happened to us so frequently and instead redirected our focus on the many, many good things that have happened for us that day or that week or that year?

We can only do that when we stop wanting bad things to happen and embrace them as part of life. We can choose to see that "bad" is the frame we are using and we can either change the frame or change what we take away from the experience.