Don Rogers: New year resets hope over pain
Reflection, resolution, prediction and hope peak Friday evening.
The new year begins at midnight. Will this moment for you be more goodbye or hello?
Goodbye suggests good riddance. This has been a hard year, so much promise thwarted, the pandemic hanging on, more passings than usual. I confess I had different expectations, and suffered as a result. But I also grew, and in ways I would not have otherwise.
Could Buddhism be wrong, then? A core truism blames pain on wanting, promising bliss in detachment or at least a numb comfort with the cessation of suffering.
Maybe the better answer is to engage more fully with this impermanent reality. Shoot for the stars. Risk the abyss. But don’t just sit there. Do something. Imagine, plan, taste the wine even before it is poured, anticipate glory. This is how to manifest achievement. Dare to dream. At least try.
So what to do with a year, a life? Be still and know, or suffer and learn?
What is the value of pain?
NOSTALGIA BURNS GOLDEN
I’ve been with the same family-owned company, Swift Communications, for 21 years, long enough to raise a child to drinking age, to the cusp of adulthood and whole new beginnings. It’s been long enough to feel permanent. I could use some detachment, more perspective.
But for now I’m remembering my little daughter racing her big brother for the top drawer at my desk at work, sure of change tucked there that she can grab and insert in a vending machine in the break room. The echoes of her yelps down a hallway ring loud as ever now.
I remember finding my teenage son years later slouching at home one summer day when I happened to drop in around lunchtime. “What’s going on?” “Nuthin’.” What a punk. “You’re coming with me.” Where? To our copy desk, where he’d spend the rest of summer, and like it. Actually like it.
My wife, fierce about certain responsibilities, never put up with excuses about whatever breaking news her husband the editor might be chasing. His son or his daughter or both had a meet, a concert, a game, a huddle with a teacher or principal, and he would be there. And so I was.
Ups, downs, some promotions. No end to stories, issues, a year or so consumed by Kobe Bryant misbehaving while in our community for shoulder surgery. Being mistaken for a grownup and made acting publisher during the financial meltdown, when the community newspaper bubble burst along with the others. Then apropos, the move made permanent on April Fools’ Day 2009. I’m still a little stunned.
The best parts? Yep, the people. Always the people. Don’t get me started. The heroes I work with today, and the mavericks before. The same son came to work for Swift for real out of college. He’s far exceeded me with another company now. Nepotism rules kept us apart at work, but his experience with Swift will always endear me to that family. Even if his mother and sister’s heads have hit the table at restaurants for years whenever we get to talking, both way too intelligent for this work.
And pain? Oh, yeah. Long hours, the hardest decisions, lives in the balance sometimes. Not much Buddhist about this occupation. Pain just comes with the deal.
We took personality tests at work every once in awhile over the years. The last one concluded that I don’t view colleagues as colleagues or even as a team. No, it goes deeper, though I don’t emote this and who would know? But they are family to me. I dunno. That’s what the test said.
So maybe what I’m feeling this eve is the loss of family when at the stroke of midnight, the company I grew up with in so many ways will dissolve.
Hello, though, that leans more toward promise, new starts. Dread may lurk, but we naturally think more about possibility. How might the new year, our new ventures go? What might we accomplish, and what better habits might I develop?
I can just see the monks shaking their heads: “There they go again. Hoping, planning, resolving. Will they never learn?”
If you go by the slim odds of resolutions carrying out in full, probably not. Commitments so often end with the entrance of pain. Ah, pain, the great brake on aspiration, the real test of how badly we want something.
We know pain first as injury, wounded feelings, broken hearts, illness, as warning to back off or else. But suffering also serves as the barrier between us and fitness, new skills, success however we define it, between us and life-changing breakthroughs.
Hello signals willingness to take on pain for the sake of something greater, or at least what seems so before we get to the actual work. We know intellectually there will be pain, perhaps physical, and surely in other familiar forms. Real effort almost always hurts.
There is a form of detachment here, in suffering for the sake of the task free of expectation. That might even be the secret. Do the work and the result will take care of itself. I learned that on wildland fire lines, the best teaching ground for this lesson.
Discernment is key, as well. Which pain to honor and which to push through? The latter takes resolve. Also a plan from which all sorts of attributes follow: responsibility, faith and especially grit if you are to live up to your resolution.
No doubt the monks will go to bed early. What’s one year to the next? I wonder, though, if one or two might furtively promise themselves, side-eyeing the others, to improve on their meditation in the new year. Seems even emptying the mind is an act of will.
Don Rogers is the publisher of the Sierra Sun and The Union, based in Grass Valley. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4299
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