Suffering As Opportunity

“The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.” -Rumi

This past year, we moved into a new era of our life, Empty Nesting.  Change often presents itself with many opportunities, including dancing with suffering. Let’s face it, most of us dance with our suffering if for no other reason than because it’s an easy rabbit hole to slide down.  I completely get how many who enter this phase of their lives get paralyzed by the past.  After all, when your kids leave home, you stay in that life that was created when the whole family unit was living in the house. You eat at the same dinner table that now feeds 2 instead of 4. You walk past empty rooms that used to be filled with noisy energy and clothes that seem to never leave the floor. Your get tucked away in a quiet house that used to be filled with kitchen cabinets being shut loudly, constant questions, laughter and extreme business. So where do you focus when change presents itself? Do you focus on the things that bring you unpleasant responses and stay there until your in a bad space?  This, in the yoga sutras, is known as Duhka, or suffering for opportunity.

The process of feeling ‘normal’ in this new empty nesting phase of life was an interesting journey for us, to say the least. When you are raising your children, you do it with the goal of raising self-reliant adults who will not need you to care for them in their adulthood. You have visions of helping move your kids to college or into their first apartment. After all, Hollywood shows us in movies this is how it is done. Reality isn’t always so tidy. February marks one year since our untidy journey into empty nesting began.

At the onset of our life shift, I was sad, confused and lost.  I viewed my life from a perspective of complete sorrow. I wandered and wallowed in the deafening silence of our empty house. I was confused about what I should be doing because all that busy-ness that made my life chaotic suddenly vanished and I had a ton of time handed back to me. My new normal was uncomfortable to say the least. 

I’m going to let you in on a little secret about how I process through suffering to get to the good stuff. I paint walls. When I paint, I don’t necessarily use the color that I end up with long term. Sometimes I use a color that represents an energy I am trying to create in myself that is lacking. I also often paint the same wall several times. To me painting is like yoga, it’s a journey, not a destination. One time when my son was young and I was going through my divorce I had this one wall that I painted every night after the kids went to sleep. One night my son stopped in front of that wall on his way to bed and asked, “Mommy, what color will that wall be when I wake up in the morning?'(LOL I may have painted that one too many times.)  What I gain from the painting is the physical movement that allows me to get my emotions out. Whether it’s rage, sorrow, depression, etc. I work it out on the wall and replace it eventually with my something that puts me in a good space. I dance with the duhka and then I move on. 
At the onset of our life transition, I chose the color yellow. Not a color I would naturally pick for my house, but it is the color of the 3rd chakra. I was feeling powerless and the 3rd chakra is all about finding your power and digesting life (and food). Seemed like the perfect color for me to use. I painted. I cried. I screamed at Alexa for playing crappy 90’s songs. I was silent. I wore myself out and then I found a place to exhale. Turns out, 

Robbie came home and liked the color, so we now have a yellow room in our house.

Our son came home for a visit this week and it made me realize that we have successfully maneuvered through our first year. He made mention that we had changed a lot of the furniture. We talked about how when our kids leave home, they go off and live their lives which is what they are supposed to do. Parents stay behind, in our case in the same house with everything still the same, but then one day I realized that we don’t have to stay the same. We, too, can live our lives and we did. I hadn’t processed this concept until this discussion but I found myself quite proud. We found the opportunity in the suffering and ended up with a healthy transition into the next phase of our life.

So, if your stuck in that bad place and dancing with the duhka, know you have the ability to discern opportunity in your suffering. As always, I would love to hear your successes in your journey.  

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