I’ve known for some time now that wonderful things often grow out of seriously cruddy ones; in fact, come to think of it, maybe that’s what my “graduate work” (i.e., my adult life) has really been all about! I keep seeing over & over again how the most seemingly un-fertile & cruddy & horrible circumstances often lead to great growth & breakthroughs & learning.
I was on my lovely long walk today, joking to myself that I have apparently failed Relationships 101 through 501 – at least! And as I said to someone recently, I’ve surely earned a Ph.D. in Loneliness along the way. For sure, I've had my "fair share" of it.
But I also have Ph.D’s in Joy, Gratitude, Friendship & Adaptability. These more than compensate for the bad bouts of loneliness I occasionally suffer from.
My life hasn’t been (& isn’t) much like the lives of most of the people I know. Mine has more change, less predictability, probably more adventure & freedom – & maybe a similar amount of angst?? (I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have angst. We all have our fears & hopes, frustrations & pain, disappointments & losses… & loneliness.)
I’ve been poking my nose lately in a very lovely book called Being with Dying – Cultivating Compassion and Fearlessness in the Presence of Death, by Joan Halifax. She shares many, many pearls of insight & wisdom.
She points out that “the roots of the pure white lotus are buried deep in the pond’s dark mud,” & that the mud “nurtures and feeds the lotus, making it possible for the flower to open in splendor to the sun.”
Isn’t that a beautiful (& comforting) image?
Mud & muck make things grow. Certainly lots of the grand adventures & fun I’ve had in, oh, the past 14 years or so, arrived after a pretty dark time in a very muddy swamp. Of course I had to take a little time to haul my arse over to the side of the swamp before any… hmmm...that isn’t true. Even in the very middle of the swamp(s), I took (& take) quite a bit of joy in some things – small things & “bigger” ones too.
Well. I guess everything is really all mixed up together, isn’t it? The “good” things & the “bad” things. It’s all a great big beautiful messy stew.
I know it’s going to be a comfort to remind myself often, lotus flowers actually grow out of mud.
P.S. You’d be wise to pick up a copy of Being with Dying – Cultivating Compassion and Fearlessness in the Presence of Death, if you yourself are dealing with dying.
P.P.S. As I’ve mentioned in other essays, I find Buddhist thought very helpful & inspiring. If I were a little more practiced at it, I would never even use the terminology of “wonderful” things & “cruddy” ones. There really isn’t a need to judge things. They just are as they are…as the Buddhists say. But I think most readers probably understand quite well what I mean…
P.P.P.S. Broken Open – How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow, by Elizabeth Lesser, is, of course, another great book to read on this topic. I’ve mentioned this wonderful book in several blog posts. “Broken, or Broken Open?,” "Lonely & Terrified: Just Another Bozo on the Bus" & "Permission to FEEL Our Feelings." Ms. Lesser is a real treasure...
P.S. # 4: A later blog posting called 'Lotus Flowers & Mud, take II' is here
'Quote of the Day' w. this post: “The last of the human freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.” – Victor Frankl