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Is Suffering Training?

Updated: Mar 12

In my philosophy class, our teacher asks - “Have you changed? Who are you now?”

We have to write down a list of ideas that complete the sentence: “Now I am (blank).”. Of course, this insinuates a lot. A lot of change! Good and bad. One student commented how surprised she was to see the list had equal amounts of Pros and Cons.

I like to think that I have changed. I like to think, too, that I haven’t. We are asked as soon as we walk “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Well - that changed. Actress, teacher ( 60s !), novel writer, song writer (70s!), Mom, PR person(big shoulders 80s!)….

And then there are the non titles - the stuff you are made of. I like to think I was a nice kid, and that I still am nice. That I had gumption - and I still do. That I was kind and friendly, but shy and cautious.

What changes? Probably the stuff around us changes more than we do. The house, the people, the parents and siblings that are close, the clothes, the hair, the photos framed. The garden changes. The grass grows and dies, the smaller plants inadvertently planted in the back get suffocated by the showy tall stuff in front. Ideas change. They become: WHAT was I thinking?? - that was NUTS, or smarter, or too slowly implemented and forgotten. Some good ones get suffocated by the showy ones in front.

It happens to all of us. Write down today Who Am I Now? And tuck your answers away.

I used to write screenplays. To pitch a screenplay you have to be able to sell the story - the whole idea of it - in a few sentences. It was the hardest part of the writing for me. There is so much more, I’d grumble, so much more.

Chris and I were doing in vitro at the time and that became my full time job. Writing the scripts on the side. The main idea - I can pitch this to you in one sentence - was to get pregnant. That idea became larger than life. And the suffering that surrounded not getting pregnant was dark. It lasted months, maybe over a year. One can change quickly from kind and friendly to bitter and mean. I hated seeing happy families, couldn’t smile at a baby.

So when that didn’t work out - the main idea eventually changed into “we want children.” And like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz figuring out all she really wanted was to go home - I changed. And realized I didn’t want to get pregnant after all - I just wanted to be a Mom.

Suffering, it seems, can clarify.

We all suffer - right? Call it what you want if suffering sounds too Biblical or rough. A shitty year, a messy time, some bad luck….

In my case it changed me - it made me smile at babies again. It also gave me some new identities : The mom to call if you are adopting, the lady to call if you are going through in vitro. I stopped asking people if they were going to have a baby. I started understanding that people act the way they do because something probably has happened that I do not know about.

So suffering becomes training. Like a runner training for a marathon. Except in those messy times - we see no end date. And get no visible trophies.

If I can keep this trick in mind - thinking of bad times as training - will I get through when I am in the thick of it? I doubt it. I have been “in training” more than I would like to admit. I usually grumble.

And, like the screenplay pitch; maybe that is what the answer to “Who Are You Now?” is. I can tell you - but there is so much more. So much more.

Btw; I never sold a screenplay. We adopted Shane. And I became a Mom.

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