On Suffering

How do I suffer?

  • In the mornings from a poor night’s sleep.
  • Mobility issues in my hips and shoulders. Back and neck pain.
  • Wanting things that I do not or cannot have.

Nearly all my suffering is either physical or mental. Occasionally, I suffer emotionally. Emotional suffering I usually include with mental and falls into the “I want but cannot have” category.

I must live with my suffering. It is generally accepted as a natural part of my life. It is what it is. But should that be the case?

A poor night’s sleep.

There are those who are adamant that this is a condition associated with getting older. Yet, I have seen older adults that do not struggle with this. Why is it only some that have this problem? Why do I have this problem? I can’t imagine this being a genetic flaw. And if is not genetic, then is it self-induced?

Reasons why my poor sleep performance is my fault:

  • Slept too long the morning before.
  • Not enough activity during the day.
  • Too much stimulation (or stimulants) in the evening.
  • Too much food/water before bed.
  • Alcohol. Click here for a wonderful Art of Manliness podcast on whether to drink or not.

If I check any of the boxes above, then I am ultimately to blame. If I don’t do anything to change these behaviors, then I will suffer.

Mobility and pain.

When it comes to mobility and pain issues, I must look to the fix. As we age, these problems will only get worse if they are not addressed. Mobility issues can be corrected, but it takes work, consistency, and patience. Pain, in my case, can be remedied through strength training. If not, the only other solution is surgery. With these two options, I will take strength training any day.

Unfulfilled wants and desires.

“What is the proper limits to one’s wealth,” Seneca asked. His twofold answer is to have what is essential and then to have what is enough. Beginning with the essential, do I and my family have it? Well, that depends on what is essential. At one time, essential meant food, shelter, and clothes on the back. Today, some would consider medicine, internet, television, phone, a car for each family member of driving age, Amazon Prime, Netflix, and a whole host of “I can’t live without it” consumer products.

My family has food, shelter, and clothes. Some of the extras are important. Medicine to treat illness, a phone to communicate, and reliable transportation will certainly make life easier. But do I need the latest phone to play the latest game, the newest car that passes the “socially acceptable” test, or the game-changing drug that will melt all the bodyfat away? I don’t need any of these, I only need what is enough. Constantly chasing after the newest and what everybody else has will leave me always wanting no matter how much I already have.

Suffering is necessary until you realize it is unnecessary.

Eckhart Tolle

I don’t have to suffer. It is not a requirement for existence on this planet. I can analyze, I can correct, and I can desire less. I might not be able to remove all my pain and hardship, but I can take the steps to eliminate most of it from my life. Rather than being overwhelmed by a multitude of suffering coming from a multitude of different areas, I can target them individually until the majority are removed. Suffering is only necessary if I allow it to be.

Little Waves of Destruction

Saturday afternoon shopping and errands. I’m not going to lie. This is not my favorite way to spend a Saturday afternoon. On the way, I suggest we eat lunch first. We go to Willy Taco.

Chips, salsa, and a big glass of some kind of fruit punch for the kiddo. He is playing with his Nintendo Switch. Occasionally, we let him bring it in. Today is one of those days. After all, it is Saturday afternoon and who wants to spend the day riding around shopping.

He reaches for a chip. On the way to his mouth, he clips the fruit punch. Fruit punch and ice go tsunami across the table, across the plates, and over the Switch.

My instinct is to add a little kindling to the fire. This is an interruption to a pleasant lunch. What are you thinking? How could you do something like that? Way to go, you ruined your Switch. These are the initial thoughts that course through my head. I look at him. Tears are starting to roll down his cheek. We clean up and Mama goes to the restroom.


2003. It was our first date. We are sipping on beer in our little booth at a local Mexican restaurant or maybe it was Applebee’s. Eighteen years ago, and the details are a little fuzzy. What isn’t fuzzy is me knocking over my beer. Sadly, this is not my first tabletop tsunami experience. The cute girl sitting across from me, Bethany, gets the full wave of ice-cold hops and barley.

A few years later, and that same girl somehow became my wife. My mom is visiting us in Tallahassee. Coincidentally, we are back at the local Applebee’s for dinner. We are sipping beer and enjoying our appetizers. I reach for a chip and initiate the next storm of destruction. This time my wife is spared. Thank God! Unfortunately, my mother is in the impact zone and the storm surge hits her full in the lap. All I can do is shake my head as I reach for any napkins in the vicinity.


About a week or two ago, I was listening to a Podcast. I can’t remember which one, but one little snippet stuck with me. They were talking about kids and their coordination. Overcoming clumsiness is a part of their development. How ridiculous it is to be upset with them when this happens. The conversation resonated with me, because I wondered how often I spoke what was in my mind when Alec had an accident. There is no use crying over spilt milk unless your parent makes you cry. In my mind, I told myself I can’t be that person that makes these molehill accidents into a tragic mountain.

As I mentioned, mama, that same cute girl from before, goes to the restroom. I look over at Alec and think about that Podcast episode. I tell him, “It is okay. Accidents happen, and this was an accident. There is no need to be upset. We are not upset. Your Switch is okay.” Bethany comes back from the restroom, and we resume our lunch as if nothing ever happened.

The moment that judgment stops through acceptance of what is, you are free of the mind. You have made room for love, for joy, for peace.

Eckhart Tolle

The hard thing is not voicing those initial snap judgments that come to mind. By taking a moment to see the big picture and keeping my snide comments to myself, I prevent the accident from escalating into something else. We are all human and prone to accidents. In this case, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I only hope he can gain a better control of his motor skills earlier than I did in life.


Feature photo by Anshu A on Unsplash

Evolve or Die

The trend with businesses: If you don’t evolve, you will die. Blockbuster, Sears, JC Penney, Pier One Imports, Hertz. Just to name a few of the more notable and most recent.

As with business, so it is with humanity. We must evolve or we will die. Death will come for each and every one of us in time. But with longer life expectancies, the reaper might be delayed from his usual rounds. Almost 8 billion people on this planet. That is about double than what it was fifty years ago. The number is only going to go up. Unless:

  • We can’t get along. A more crowded earth means more differences between its inhabitants. Add some global warming in there, and we are staring at a big bucket of crabs keeping everybody else from getting to the top for a breath of fresh air (or freedom).
  • More pandemics. They have been around for centuries, and they are only getting stronger. Every couple of years a new one surges to the forefront. It is only a matter of time before the next one comes to collect its due.
  • More global catastrophes. We think we are the all-powerful dominators of this globe. Yet in the face of a hurricane, earthquake, or volcano, we are faced with our own fragility.

The list could go on. One only has to look at the Book of Revelations and start making the comparisons. What can we do with such dire tidings? How can we ensure a brighter future for our children and their children? We can:

  • Figure out how to get along. At least, until we learn how to zip off to Mars and begin the prequel to Frank Herbert’s Dune.
  • Get aggressive in fighting these viruses. We need to get healthier. We need to become more resilient as individuals. And we need to put our minds and money to work fighting the real enemies.

“The discoveries of healing science must be the inheritance of all. That is clear. Disease must be attacked, whether it occurs in the poorest or the richest man or woman, simply on the ground that it is the enemy; and it must be attacked just in the same way as the fire brigade will give its full assistance to the humblest cottage as readily as to the most important mansion.” –Winston Churchill

  • Be responsible citizens of this planet. Right now it is the only one we got. We might not be able to change the weather, but we can at least pick up after ourselves. We can make better choices, consume less stuff, and take care of the things we have. Until technology can come up with the right solutions, we can do our part.

The earth’s population will soon recognize, if they haven’t already done so, that humanity is now faced with a stark choice: evolve or die. –Eckhart Tolle

The choice is ours. To stand idly by the wayside and let things run their course is to invite death. We must find the courage to forge ahead. We might not suffer too much if we don’t, but we won’t leave humanity, our children and their children, a better place for those who come after us.