“”What is to give light must endure burning.”
— Viktor E. Frankl
In 2017, I got a permanent ringing in my ears somewhere in the 15,000Hz to the 20,000Hz range. The doctors aren’t sure where it came from. Possibly from antibiotics, maybe from something else.
I couldn’t sleep because the noise never stopped. It was loud enough that it would wake me up at night. There was no place where I could find peace.
After two months of living with the ringing, I started having sleeping problems.
I averaged about 4 to 5 hours of sleep a night for about 10 weeks. I couldn’t take naps either — I’d wake up a couple seconds into it.
I was also dealing with something similar to dizziness. Every time I walked, my perception of the world would be off, as if my brain was struggling to pinpoint where my eyes were headed.
It was disorientating.
Driving was an effort.
Walking was an effort.
Three months into it, I started to lose my mind.
And then the obsessive thoughts began. These were words and phrases that repeated in my head from the moment I woke up till I fell asleep.
They never stopped in their intensity.
I could not rationalize with them.
I couldn’t stop thinking about them.
Each thought carried an overwhelming sense of shame.
I started to struggle with reading. Words would mix up in their location.
I struggled to listen. I couldn’t stay focused long enough to draw meaning from sentences. I stopped listening to podcasts.
I struggled to speak. I would say words in the wrong order. Some days I’d forget my dog’s name.
For the first time, I saw the everlasting darkness of the world.
I grew resentful.
This is an emotional state we call suffering.
It’s an emotional state because it doesn’t live outside of you. It’s within you.
What do you do with it?
You certainly can’t avoid it. There’s a cost to being human and it’s suffering.
It is a part of our evolutionary heritage. And it is a tremendous gift.
Naturally then, you should accept this gift. You should accept your suffering.
And then, this is the key. When you accept it, you transform it. You become an alchemist of this world, and your soul, the conduit between suffering and meaning.
The beautiful thing about suffering is it demands an answer from you.
You can’t hide from it.
You can’t push it away.
You can’t destroy it.
Suffering is a precursor to transformation.
It is the foundation of the greatest of triumphs.
It is the winter that moves you, the thirst that drives you, the darkness that pushes you towards the light.
Suffering seems to be a consequence of living in an unfair world.
It is a strong emotion because it had to be to make a difference.
It’s difficult to control because life is difficult to control. You need something that can match that force of life.
Life is filled with many sorrows. It’s no wonder we feel Hell right below us, and Heaven far above us.
You can’t always choose what happens to you.
But you can choose your reaction. And it starts with accepting your suffering.
You have to accept it. If you don’t, it stays as suffering.
And suffering in of itself is not useful if it does not lead to anything.
Suffering is only the guide — it is not the human.
Suffering is why a man quits the 9–5 job he dislikes; why the boy who loses his mother travels.
It’s why we still wander the Earth looking for God. Because suffering dares us to create a better life for ourselves. It dares us to reach out to Heaven.
To me, it is the greatest of all the emotions, because it alone has the potential for the greatest transformation.
In evolutionary terms, you can look at suffering as a kind of pressure for an organism to change, internally or externally.
If you can accept your suffering, you can begin to transform it. Then it is no longer suffering. It’s meaning.
My experiences gave my life a richer meaning. I saw the preciousness of life — the darkness made the light that much brighter.
I grew closer to people, closer to my family, closer to humanity. My problems didn’t all go away, but I don’t suffer as much anymore.
Suffering guides you towards greatness.