Decreasing Our Suffering by Savoring Our Common Humanity
Updated: Jun 12, 2022
“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths.” M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled
My husband, John, and I are still processing a car accident we had a few days ago while visiting our older son in Park City, Utah. Fortunately, no one was injured. Unfortunately, two cars were damaged.
Sadly, the cherished, brand new, mangled Toyota SUV we were driving had to be towed away. The SUV belonged to our daughter-in-law. And… we were the ones cited for taking a left turn on green, not yielding to oncoming traffic.
It had been a wonderful trip up until that point. But suddenly, we were not feeling too good about ourselves. Nor Park City. Nor the whole COVID crappy world. Afterwards, we could not even remember how we got home. Talk about a funk. No worse. We were in a hollow, dark, empty place.
We shared our emotions like guilt, shame, fear, confusion, shock, embarrassment. We thought we were “traumatized” though we were not sure what that meant exactly. We could not remember how we got back to our son’s house afterwards; clearly, we were a bit messed up in the head. Still, we felt self-centered about calling ourselves traumatized when we considered horrible accidents where people were maimed and killed.
We left later than evening for the airport. After getting through security, we headed for the pub. We thought some normally forbidden food might help. Hamburger, French fries, a beer, perhaps a chocolate brownie might fill up the hollow place. Afterwards, we did not notice much change other than now we also felt guilty about eating too much junk.
The next morning, no better. The internal darkness lingered. I told John that I remembered a friend sharing a story about a time he had felt lost, sad, defeated. He was in college, away from home, not doing so well in school. He stopped going to his classes, laid in his bed with the lights turned off and played “Sounds of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel. “Hello darkness my old friend…I’ve come to talk with you again.” Over and over.
John quickly found the song on his phone and played it for us. Something about the song helped. It could have been the music itself. Music can touch us emotionally. Perhaps an understanding that we were in a dark place where others had been felt comforting.
Then things started to change, we looked outside. The sun was shining. We decided to walk our legs off and check on our little community of Cashmere. Many people were enjoying the weather. Two boys invited us over to examine a cricket. Soon the mother and baby joined in. We became fast friends.
A 94-year-old friend told us stories we had never heard. She had, it seems, been miraculously healed of several ailments in her life including lupus. As we left her, a friendly woman and her family halted their backyard project and introduced themselves – eventually sharing their interests and background. Little kids stopped their playing to shout out where they were going on imaginary trips in their wagon. Older kids told us how great their geodesic-dome climbing equipment was for playing “king of the mountain” or simply for sliding down. They shared about times they had hung on by their ankles.
Our world warmed. Looking back these several days, I think of it as one of the lovelier days I have experienced in my life.
What, my friends, just happened there? Here is how I see it upon reflection.
We were in a mishap. Were any babies killed? This is the question one friend asks herself and others to get a balanced perspective. Thankfully, no. No babies were hurt at all. Still, we regretted what had happened and took steps to repair the damage as best we could.
We were able to notice the mix of our many emotions, as well as our self-judgment. It was helpful to be able to sit with those emotions without repressing them or getting overly carried away and to label them if possible.
What we added was this visceral understanding of our common humanity, that we have all been in dark places. The music helped, moving our bodies was good. Music and exercise are common ways of lifting our spirits. But then, best of all, was the authentic connecting with others. Being present, reaching out.
John and I came home with rosy checks and warm hearts, renewed and ready to head back soon to see our loved ones in Park City. Best of all, we can remember the day, continue to savor it, and share it with others. There were a lot of lessons for me in all that misery, mindfulness, music, movement, miracles, and … especially the mysterious magic of kinship.
Life IS difficult and complex. Life IS also rich and fulfilling. Each of us must find our own way through the wilderness to the Good Life. It seems to me, however, that reflecting on and sharing our stories, connecting with others, steeping ourselves in our common humanity is what gives us perspective, hope, and nourishment for the journey.
How might we take the time to savor our common humanity and Journey to The Good Life?