I am a sensitive soul, wired that way from my early years, committed to making sure that my Mom(s) were happy. I was desperate for attention both at home and at school… particularly for the attention of perceived Mom(s) and strove to make them smile or appreciate me. I am a sensitive soul today, very affected by the suffering of others. I need those close to me to be okay so that I can be okay. If people I know are suffering I am finding myself impacted now more and more. Then there is the unimaginable scale of human suffering in this world that affects me as well.
My beloved wife has been listing a lot to Alana Levandowki’s album “Pointe Vierge” https://www.alanalevandoski.com/pvcommendations.html. It is a meditative, or should I say contemplative album that delves deeply with Thomas Merton and James Finlay into suffering and its role on our spiritual paths. I recommend the album to you but let me share this spoken bit of James Finlay talking about a conversation with his teacher, Thomas Merton:
Once, when I went in to complain about something, Merton said to me: “You didn’t come here to breathe a rarified air beyond the suffering of this world. You were brought here by God to experience the suffering of the whole world in your heart. Otherwise, there’s no justification in living in a place like this.”
Thomas Merton, a follower of Jesus and a monk, invites those who would come with him on the path of suffering to participate in the heart of Jesus today in holding the suffering of this world. When Jesus said, “pick up your cross and follow me” it was an invitation to die to self, to go through the suffering of abandoning everything that once defined who you were so that you might be reborn on the path of becoming everything your creator intended you to become.
For us caregivers, the deeper we are pulled into our loved one’s needs and requirements, the more our former identity gets chipped away. In the grind of daily caregiving the heroic and saintly aspects of our work disappear under the overwhelming and continuous needs that running a home and caring for someone involves. It is so easy to lose our sense of self in the endless routines of daily caregiving. But each day that we again say yes to this calling, each day that we grind it out, we are children after our heavenly father’s heart, taking care of those who cannot care for themselves. We are participating in Jesus’ mission of taking care of those marginalized by their health, mistakes in life or whatever else has caused them to be unable to cope any more. As we become conscious of our own burnout, our own suffering, we have opened to us the path through it that expands our hearts and consciousness into seeing ourselves as our creator sees us (loving, imperfect, wounded but blessed and blessing), seeing others as our creator sees them, loving them as they are, caring for them as they are. We find ourselves in something greater than our commitment to our family and those we love, we find ourselves as part of the flow of love that energizes this universe, that sustains us here on this planet, that surrounds us individually with such care.
And so, sensitive and suffering soul that I am, at times overwhelmed by my own suffering, the suffering of those I love, the suffering of the world, I yet remember to relax in the “arms of my heavenly Daddy” trusting in the end that all is well and that all will be well.