Tag Archives: buddha

the stories we tell ourselves

There is an endless buzz of chatter in my head.

Sometimes I tell myself nice things:

You are such a kick ass [wife, daughter, nurse, friend etc.]

You are really good at [laughing, scratching the dog’s ears,  playing harp music]

and then, of course, there is the negative, judgmental bullshit:

You really suck at [assembling Chinese-made furniture, calling your relatives, making small talk]

You look like shit today, and your thighs are basically disgusting

That’s an awesome idea, but you can’t pull it off

And even worse, projecting that kind of negativity towards others

You are a lot better than him because of [x, y, z]

She is clearly a fucking idiot

Its exhausting, and its all a load of crap.

If I’ve gotten anything from my daily mini meditation sessions, its being able to pull away, ever so slightly from the chatter. Its still there, buzzing away.  But sometimes the light burns through the smoke, and I can see a bit clearer.

Who I am is not my job, how I look in a dress, how I interact with others.  Who you are is not the balance of your bank account statement, how many friends you have on Facebook, how many countries stamped in your passport. We aren’t even good or bad.  We just are.

Maybe this is the void, to be everything and nothing at all.

It is scary for me to face this truth, to break away from old ways of looking at things.  I have spent much of my life valuing my worth based on how much you love me.  I have suffered because of this. You have suffered because of this. Nobody can love me enough.

But see, there is light breaking through my bullshit.  The stories we tell ourselves are just that: stories. They are as thin as the air we breathe. It doesn’t matter what I think, what you think.  Deep down, there is silence and there is peace.  Its the stuff we all are made of.


Buddha sez its all good

your story

Throughout my mom’s illness and during the aftermath, a number of people stopped short with me.  They sucked in their breath when starting to complain about a problem they had, or minimized their pain regarding a certain issue. “You know, this is nothing compared to what you are going through” or “I shouldn’t even be telling you this.”  If I were more of an orator and less of a writer, maybe I would have told them this:




Buddha had it right. We are human so we suffer. We suffer and we suffer and we suffer. Your pain is real, as though it was wound up in the helix of your DNA.  Maybe you still have a healthy mother.  But you have walked through other challenges that I have not experienced. My pain doesn’t separate us, in fact it brings us closer.  We are united in the experience of loss. 

To say that all human suffering is equal is both true and not true.  There are tragedies which chill us to the core, which break a human being, which cause entire communities to light candles and whisper and shed tears.  War crimes. Torture. Abuse. I’m not speaking of these horrors, which seem so senseless and wrong but do teach us that there is no limit to human suffering.  I am speaking of more of our everyday tragedies.  Illness, heartbreak, disappointment, death.  Even the wealthiest and the most blessed walk beside us with these.

Suffering is something that cannot be escaped, so don’t deny your feelings.  They are real, they make you human. At the same time, listen to others.  I take care of cancer patients, but I have never had cancer.  I hear their stories 5 days a week, and while I have never had a somber doctor stand over me and tell me its growing, its spreading, I need chemo or surgery or radiation, tell me I may lose my hair, my fertility, my limb, or my life, I understand a little bit (not entirely, but a little bit) of what they go through.  Their stories help me find gratitude, help me appreciate the transient gift of health.  Maybe my story helps you find gratitude for the mother that you have, whether she is your best friend or someone you barely know.

In losing what we love the most, we are shown the one thing we can hang on to: a spirit which is beautiful and buoyant and resilient, more than we ever imagined it to be.  In our pain and suffering, we can become teachers, we can inspire.  Our tears, our long nights on hard floors, our deep hunger has brought us to where we are today.  The darkness has taught us to appreciate the light.

See, your story is important– as important as you are.  I want to hear it from your lips, your pen or your flying fingers.