Greetings Everyone, This is the podcast “Close to the Bone.” My name is Carl Vreeland, your host.
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This is episode #34, entitled, Everything’s Not Going to Be All Right.
Let’s get truthful. Let’s get real. Life is hard. And everything is not going to be all right. At least, not all of the time. People get ill. They grow old. They experience loss and loneliness, and they die. Of course, this goes for all of us. There’s no escaping it. “Wow,” you might say, “That’s brutal.” Well, that’s one way to judge it, and a common one. But why does this truth need to be brutal, and depressing, and frightening? Why does death have to be dreadful? It’s a reality. We all know we’re going to die. Why can’t we accept it? Why do we go around sort of whistling in the dark, avoiding and ignoring this extraordinary truth? Why do we drink, drug, smoke, plug-in, tune-out, chase money, sex, and material things obsessively as a way to circumvent it? Why can’t we just be, and just live without this fear?
Well, perhaps it is because we know we’re going to die? Unlike the rest of the animal kingdom, we have this knowledge that death can come at any time. We have a knowing, a self-awareness. As far as we know, other living creatures do not. Think about it, imagine if we didn’t know this truth, perhaps we’d be happy, like a dog or cat, or like an infant or toddler. Like children, we’d roll down grassy hills, run around with our clothes off, and splash around in street puddles through-out adulthood.
But we do know, and by having this self-awareness, and hence this fear of dying, we suffer. And with this fear, and the fear of getting sick, growing old, and losing our loved ones, we turn urgent. “Life is short, I have so much to accomplish, so much to see, and so much to do.” Yes, and fear and anxiety drive us to create, to leave our mark. “Time is of the essence, I don’t have time to sit back right now.” So we run to the gym, to the desk, to meetings, to dinner, while time is chasing us and closing in. We create goals, set intentions, plan our future, plan vacations, while old age and death lurk in the shadows. We can’t slow down, we can’t pause, we can’t stop because time waits for no one.
That drive, that energy, that fuel, is no doubt fear, fear of these truths, loss and death and such. Only we aren’t thinking about it most of the time, but it hides behind the curtain. On some level we know it’s there, waiting for us. That fear is the energy behind our anxiety, worry, anger, frustration, unease, restlessness, and impatience. And if left untreated, it will lead to mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical illness. And so we need to do something about it if we are to be healthy, happy, and at peace.
So what’s the treatment, what’s the solution? Not an easy answer, and like with most things, there really isn’t one answer. But like with any issue, it starts with acknowledgment of it, then an understanding of it, and then a discipline, plan, and program. This is why we have psychotherapy, psychiatry, religion, meditation, and spiritual practices such as Yoga, Buddhism, and the Twelve Step program; because we need help, we need guidance, and tools. So don’t be so quick to put down talk-therapy or religion, it turned up for a reason. There was a need for it, and there still is a need. Fact is, left to our default mode, the survival instinct, the fight or flight mechanism, we run amuck. Yes, it’s true, we are animals, and like animals we need the energy of fear and anger to survive. But we are not just animals, we are human beings; self-aware, highly intelligent, emotional, and cooperative. We are highly creative, we develop language, communities, culture, music, and art. That said, at the same time we are capable of destroying it all. Indeed, we are complicated creatures.
So how does therapy, religion, and the like help? Well, they can deepen our understanding of the body, mind, and spirit. They can offer tools like mediation to soothe our anxiety and worry. They can help us tap into an inner wisdom and greater Power which can bestow us with insights and strength. They can help us find peace with illness, aging, loss, and death. Yes, there is a way to embrace all of life, find comfort in the discomfort, and be OK with whatever comes our way. We have the ability to surrender to and accept whatever happens. This give us the courage to changes the things we can and the ability to accept the things we cannot change. Surrender and acceptance help us slow down and enjoy life more, even experience gratitude when things aren’t going well.
Look, we can’t expect things to go well all the time. And we can’t expect to feel good all the time. Yet, we’re always grasping for happiness and pushing away discomfort and pain. We expend so much energy doing this, to no avail. Instead, if we connect body, mind, and spirit, we stay even keeled, in the middle. When the pendulum swings hard to the left or hard to the right, we know how to guide it to the middle again. We gain a wisdom, a knowing that life is chaos and order. Things fall apart, and things come together. We stop waiting for everything to be all right, settled in, and just right. If you’re still expecting and hoping that everything will come together according to your plan and vision, so you can someday kick back and relax in your lounge chair with a Cuban cigar and margarita, you’re in for a rude awakening. Everything is fleeting. Nothing lasts forever.
You might say, “Well, isn’t this reason enough to freak out, to become a worry-wart, to turn overly cautious and careful?” No, no, on the contrary, we drink in every precious moment of life because we know nothing lasts forever. Through the aforementioned practices, we learn to be more present and grateful for every moment. And hence, we slow down a bit. We spend more time with friends and family. We find more balance in life. And we learn not to worry nearly as much, because we know deep down that it doesn’t help, it only hinders us. It steals our peace, and our usefulness to those in need. Our worry and fear only make the people around us feel more fearful.
Let’s take this further. . . there is no stability, security, ground, nothing is stable, everything changes, ultimately we are powerless for most part. We cannot not control nature. Things will happen outside of our control. Things will not always go our way. Our spouse might shout, “I want a divorce!” and mean it this time. We might try like hell to change their mind, go to marriage counseling, seek therapy, perhaps prolong the heartache knowing dam well, deep down, that it’s over. We just don’t want to accept it. There’s fear of being alone, fear of dying alone. We don’t want this to happen. And so we suffer day after day, holding on to something that causes this suffering. Our children suffer because of us not accepting the inevitable. But we can’t let go. A mess turns into a bigger mess. Things don’t always go our way, why not simply accept this truth? We are not that powerful, we can’t always have it our way. We are all going to experience loss at some point.
Now, if you’re religious, you might believe, hope, and pray that God will watch over you and take care of you, and make everything all right and save your marriage. If you were raised with a religion, of course it would be normal to believe this. If your spouse wants to leave the marriage, you pray. You ask God to make everything all right. Yet, being religious, you should know, that in the end, you must accept God’s will, whatever the outcome may be. In which case “making everything all right,” to your liking, may not be God’s will. This would or could mean that everything isn’t going to be all right in your view. God may have other plans. And if that is so, mustn’t we accept this? Of course. Yet, we tend to fool ourselves into thinking that God is going to make everything all right, in line with what we want, when we know dam well that our “all right” may not be God’s “all right.” So then, shouldn’t we be asking God for the strength to accept His or Her will? “Thy will, not mine, be done?” In which, ultimately, everything will be all right.
God, like Nature, is all powerful. Or perhaps God is Nature. Whatever the case may be, we again are powerless to the immutable truth; we all suffer loss sooner or later. Yes, of course later is better, but Nature may have something other than that in store. So, what does this mean? Does it mean we shouldn’t feel sad, and grieve and mourn a loss? Of course not. But it does mean we eventually must accept whatever outcome if we are to move on, and be a positive force, and enjoy life. This takes courage, and this takes accepting the truth.
Interestingly, many people go on about the truth. We hear folks say, “The truth will set you free. . . ” But seldom do they finish the quote, “. . . but first it will make you miserable” (James A. Garfield). It’s apparent why they misquote this adage; they’re talking the talk, but unwilling to walk the walk. If you want to be happy and enjoy life, walk the walk. If you want to be at peace with change, loss, illness, and death, walk the walk. But, we need to walk easy, not like a soldier. There’s no fight. There’s no toughness needed. In fact, stop fighting. Just surrender to what is greater and bigger than you. Walk the walk, take the path of least resistance. We are a part of Nature. Join, yoke with Nature. Stop thinking you’re any more important than anything or anyone else. Humble yourself. When you do, you will rest easy. You will be able to relax more. Surrender yourself to something greater. When you do, an inner-peace will flower from within you. You will become one with everything. Nature, God, life, and death. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
Well, that’s all I have, thank you for listening. If you like my podcast, check out my website, carltvreeland.com, you’ll find several podcast transcripts there on my blog page, and there’s also a link to my YouTube channel, 12 Steps to Heaven, which deals specifically with alcoholism and drug addiction and much more. Again, thank you for listening.
I strongly encourage my readers to share their thoughts and add to the conversation. Don’t be shy, leave your comments below.