“You’re unbelievably strong” is no longer the compliment it once was to me.
There is no life without suffering, but recently I’ve been wondering if perhaps I’ve taken this too far. Why do I take pride in my ability to cope with heartache, stress, isolation, mistreatment and anxiety? Once the pain is over, I get a sense of pleasure, pride and strength in having stuck to things to the end and only relying on myself to get through.
But I’m no longer sure that’s the right thing to feel.
Of course, no-one successful has gotten there without resilience and grit. No huge billion dollar business and 60 year marriage got there without the very strong desire at some point to give up. But that doesn’t mean that everything is worth sticking to.
The billionaire and old couple surely have a lot of grit, but I’m also sure there’s a lot of things that they saw reasonable to quit. I wonder therefore what people they cut off, what relationships they ended, what business ventures then stepped away from. What pain they refused to endure.
It’s not rare to want the glory of bravely enduring pain, it’s just rarely discussed. Proust discusses a lady who daydreams her family could die so she could courageously mourn them and immediately get to work, in a way that her neighbours would deem extraordinary strong. She’s not a psychopath, she’s just creating scenarios where she’s the hero.
When enduring suffering in a respectable way becomes part of your personality, as in my case, I wonder if sometimes I might have stuck to pain a bit longer than was necessary, just for that reward in the end. And the scariest thought of all, I wonder if I actually chased pain, just for that warm feeling of resilience in the end.
And so I’ve decided (for myself), to no longer respect pain, but to be apathetic towards it. It’s something I have to go through now and then, that’s life, and we move forward. Not something to glorify and respect and build my identity around.
I wonder if in the long term, I’ll actually feel happier.
Wishing you a great week,