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Is suffering one of life’s greatest secrets? To feel happiness, we must suffer first.
Is it why we keep hoping for the light in the darkest of times? Knowing when the light comes, there is a new beginning. In the deepest of winter, we cling to knowing that spring will soon appear on our doorsteps—bringing us lighter mornings and evenings, allowing us to daydream of endless summer nights. We want to feel free and happy.
How in the coldest of days, we welcome the warmth from a cup of tea, then we gasp for a glass of fresh, cold water on the hottest of days. Life is a collection of contrasts.
We seek perfection in the messy and calm amongst the chaos. We have an eternal desire for balance.
People mistake comfort for happiness, but perhaps, the truth is we need to earn happiness. Maybe that’s why so many people sabotage a calm, blissful life by welcoming in chaos. Our lives feel too certain, too comfy, and we know what is around the corner, so we seek drama.
As we appreciate that everything will pass, we surrender to what life is bringing to our front door.
If happiness wasn’t found in the comfort, was it somehow to be found in being uncomfortable?
Was there some need for those of us with no suffering in our lives to find some? Maybe, that way, we can appreciate the calm and feel happy in the moment. Maybe, this can make us appreciate our homes and our comforts more. Did suffering a little somehow make us stronger and more fulfilled human beings?
When life is nice and easy, we can sit back and remember the struggle.
A few weeks ago I jumped on my bike.
Although I was greeted with a blue sky day, I knew I made a mistake when I realised I forgot my gloves (it was winter in Scotland). It was fine until the cycle back, when the sun passed through the clouds and the air was bitterly cold. My fingers were turning colder by the second. And so the struggle started.
My internal chatter was noisy, questioning if I would survive the journey back home as I felt colder and colder with each peddle—dramatic I know. I’m sure I was even making some whimpering noises like a distressed cat.
This seemed to help for a bit.
What really helped was imagining the cosiness of my flat—the warm cup of tea in my hand, the sweet treat to accompany it, wrapped in my cosy blanket. This flooded my mind and body with warmth and hope. The struggle eased away as I felt optimism take control. Eventually, when I arrived home, the warmth and cosiness enveloped me. I felt a sudden calmness.
Would I have appreciated the warm cup of tea as much if I didn’t have the freezing bike ride beforehand? I don’t think so.
The more I reflect, the more I realise I think I understand life a bit more. In camping trips, you feel like a contestant on a “survive the elements, living a basic life” game show and start embracing the simple life. The air bed makes you long for your actual bed. The eating-on-the-go makes you appreciate your fully stocked kitchen. The shared bathroom provides deep gratitude for your private bathroom at home.
All of these are your normal day-to-day until you experience the struggle, and then they feel like a luxury.
Another recent struggle was unplanned.
The electricity in my flat dramatically cut out one midweek evening as I was about to step into a bath. The perfect timing for a struggle. I suddenly realised how much we rely on electricity. Lighting my flat, charging my phone, the spark for my cooker, boiling my kettle, switching on my boiler, and powering my fridge-freezer. The list is endless.
Eventually, the electricity returned, and the candles I lit continued to burn. This was a reminder that we can make do with a new gratitude for the ease of electricity after the struggle passed.
Interestingly, we do just about everything we can to make sure that we and others around us don’t struggle. But, it is the struggle that is critical so we can learn about ourselves and gain the greatest achievement—providing a feeling of satisfaction.
New experiences allow us to make mistakes, which are helpful for growth. In the struggle, we appreciate everything we have and know. It provides us with the knowledge that we can stand the next struggle and allows in whatever we need to experience.
Then, when the difficult times come, we cross over back into our comfort zone.
I now have a stash of matches for the next time the electricity turns off.
The next time you feel unhappy, it might be because you are in the struggle. Keep hope’s light flickering, knowing that happiness will be around the corner waiting for you…once you figure out how to end the struggle.