“An obstacle may be either a stepping stone or a stumbling block.” ~Unknown
The first twenty some years of my life were rooted in intense emotional pain. My childhood was filled with one painful event after another. I grew up in a neighborhood where I was the first ethnic kid and to make matters even more complicated, I had a birth defect that made my head look like it was on crooked. This only brought more ridicule and torment from fellow classmates.
When I was nine, my birth defect was corrected and for the first time in my young life, I looked normal. However, my soul was scarred by all the humiliation and pain that I experienced. In my eyes, I was a victim and deep in my heart, I truly felt that I had done something wrong to garner such painful experiences.
Wasn’t childhood supposed to be all fun and games? Maybe for most children but not for me. My teenage years were somewhat better to some small degree but there were some very painful experiences in that period too.
By age twenty, I was a miserable human being. I wore my pain as if it were a burden on my back. The baggage of all the tears and suffering felt like a ton. Ironically, despite all the misery, somewhere deep in my heart I knew that things would eventually get better. All that kept me going was hope.
However, despite the hope, I looked at my mistakes and failures with shame. I felt so horrible for all the bad things that happened. For some reason, I blamed myself for all the agony I had endured. That was until I read A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson.
In that book, she wrote about how nothing in life happens by accident. All the things that we experience happen for a reason. We may not see that reason at the moment but there is a hidden purpose in any given situation. With that philosophy in mind, we can recognize that each situation is a blessing in disguise.
That book turned my life around and for the first time, I was able to look at my past and see the beauty in all that suffering. It would take me another ten years to make my peace with it but at that moment, I let go of all the self-blame.
The minute I made that decision, all the weight that I had been carrying disappeared in an instant. I felt that I could breathe and with that new found freedom, I was able to see my past with greater compassion and wisdom.
I realized that my painful past was really a blessing in so many ways. It made me compassionate. It made me develop my creative abilities and so many other wonderful things. Ironically, I may not have had a childhood as a child but I have one now and that is awesome in my mind.
So much of life boils down to how you deal with what you have. You have the choice to take the lemons that life throws you and turn them into lemon meringue pie or you can lament the situation and be paralyzed by it.
In Buddhism, one of the main concepts is the idea of the Four Noble Truths. The first Noble Truth is that there is pain and suffering in life. No one is immune to that truth. We all have had experiences that created feelings of misery. That is part of life for that is how we grow. There is no need to lament the reality of this fact. Complaining about your pain will not change the pain or make it go away. If anything, all that does is keep you stuck in it.
It would be wonderful if we grew only through joyous experiences but we usually don’t. The greatest learning occurs when we are faced with an obstacle. Actually, if it were not for the resistance of obstacles, many people would not make an effort to get better.
Of course, this is all easier said than done but it is doable. The next time you are confronted with something that has the illusion of being an obstacle, simply just realize that that obstacle is not the boss of you. You are the boss of it and view it as being a stone in the right direction. For one of the many beautiful things about being brought down to the ground is the realization that there is only one direction to go, and that is up.