I think the key to living is to be willing to suffer, and suffer terribly. For much of my life, I avoided suffering. I am very bad at suffering. Whenever any suffering lands on my head, I start to writhe and squirm and cry out, my face contorted, to wax poetical and sing songs as if the noise pouring out of my throat will save me. I lie there, my heart breaking, wallowing in the agony and hating it and screaming.
As a sensitive and anxious person, the tiniest bit of suffering can grate across my nerves like nails digging into an open flesh wound. An ant crawling across my hand is enough to send me into an anxiety attack. But what I have found is that the key to life, and to happiness, is to face suffering, whatever it is, head-on. Rather than hide behind bushes or rocks, or skirt and dodge the bullets, duck down into trenches, the only way to truly live and grow is to walk out onto the battlefield with open arms and a smile on your face as bullets tear you apart, touch a thousand blossoms of red on your clothes. The best way to understand anything is to spend a few minutes, hours, days, alone and screaming. You have to drop the beehive onto your head, hack off your own foot—then inspect the blood and the blisters and the wounds, to learn what they have to teach you.
Like I said, as a sensitive person, I am highly averse to suffering, both physical and psychological; at the doctor’s, even as a grown woman, when I get my blood drawn, or a flu injection, I will cringe and shed tears. If someone screams in my face, they may as well be pummeling me with bricks until my flesh is bruised and my bones are broken.
I know suffering, just like anyone who walks a day on this planet. Suffering is my lover, its every hard edge and plane intimately explored each and every second of my life. It is the key to life, because it is life. Dissatisfaction, a niggling sense of “not-rightness”, the constant looming fear of death, feelings of insecurity, a deep desire for the warmth and safety of the womb that will never be fulfilled—life is suffering, through and through. We are born, screaming, and we live, silently screaming, and we die, screaming, in our minds and our hearts. In between the screams, however, there are smiles, there is laughter, and the only way to cultivate more of these things is to scream your way to them. Anything worth having or achieving takes years of gritted teeth and groans and gasps of agony, often in solitude and silence.
You see, the point of life isn’t to be happy while you’re living, but to die happy. And the only way to die happy is by accomplishing what you need to accomplish while you are alive, which takes work and sweat and blood, a couple of mushy pieces of guts, and a lot of agonized yelling. What’s more, what you are often left with at the end isn’t even happiness, which is, in a way, it’s own kind of suffering. Instead, it’s just sort of a small, tiny prick of satisfaction, before you close your eyes and leave this world for the last time, a twinge of peace that, no matter how miniscule, in that moment, will be worth more than anything else possible could.