Somewhere, somehow I read an article this week that asked the question not “what would make you happy?” But “how much pain are you willing to tolerate?”
It was centred around the very reasonable observation that many of the external trappings of “happiness” (the dream job, the big house, the big salary) come with a degree of unavoidable pain. How much pain is involved varies, but often success comes with sacrifice. Rather than seeking happiness, the articles argues, we should identify how much pain we are willing to tolerate to get the things we want.
My pain dilemma is acute.
I have always been very comfortable with the pain of hard word and long hours, giving up social things and burying myself in my work. Ever since I was a child, I would seek out extra homework and in my university days whilst peers partied, I’d be tucked away in a romantic library, head in the books. Ironic, given I was the one to develop an alcohol problem, but anyhoo…
I enjoy hard graft, and it’s part of my DNA. I did an in depth personality test recently which marked me at The Achiever type. Correct. But I’m finding myself in a pickle. I am pushing myself so hard I want to kick out entirely and say “it’s over. I need a new life.” As I rush through my day and collapse exhausted as it draws to a close, I harbour fantasies of becoming a meditation teacher, a dog walker, a hermit in a remote land. Anything to give me more space and balance. I want the pain to stop entirely.
In the space between finishing that last sentence and starting this one, I have been to an AA meeting. The theme was “easy does it” and of course, I heard exactly what I needed to hear today.
The speaker, a young American man, talked about how he is always operating at speed; searching for drama; making things happen and then wanting to press the self destruct button. He said a marvellous line that made me chuckle, but resonated: “I can just let the story continue, I don’t always have to be seeking the season finale.”
I’m looking for my season finale now, the dramatic plot twist in which I ditch it all for a simpler life, or crash and burn to later rise like a Phoenix for the flames.
What about if I just made some small changes to make the current situation better? What about that? Not dramatic enough. But infinitely more sensible.
Then, the amount of “pain” I am required to tolerate will be managed. I can indulge my natural propensity to work hard but make sure I stop myself going mad. The worst thing about this pain dilemma is that I’m inflicting it upon myself and not allowing myself the sweet medicine of recovery to fix it.
The question changes each time I write but the answer remains the same: do more recovery.