Foundations of ease
“Burdens are the foundations of ease and bitter things the forerunners of pleasure.” — Jalāl ad-Dīn Rumi
I had to really think about this one for a few minutes; I wasn’t sure whether it was truth or wishful thinking. Then I remembered the joke about the man who, when asked why he hit himself repeated on the head with a hammer, replied “Because it feels so good when I stop.”
Nobody I know really wishes for burdens or bitter things. Yet some people seem more ready than others to take them on, especially if it means in doing so, they are helping someone else. We tend to label such people as “saints” or otherwise distance ourselves from the expectation that we should measure up to a bar that has been set so high. But no matter how much we try to avoid it, we all end up with cares of our own to endure.
And really, all joking aside, we would not know the meaning of ease if that was all we had ever experienced. Jeff and I are grateful for the relative poverty of the early years of our marriage, when we literally could not afford to eat out even at McDonald’s. Not only did we learn how to enjoy life without spending large sums of money; we also knew how to appreciate the comparative ease that would be ours in the decades to come. When Jeff first finished dental school and got into the Air Force, what some would have viewed as a bare minimum of income felt like wealth to us, and we’ve felt wealthy ever since.
In the same way, the challenges we have faced as parents of a son with significant disabilities have created a unique appreciation for those rare moments we are able to get away together, just the two of us. We don’t have to do anything special at such times for it to feel like a vacation.
I’m sure you have experienced similar levels of gratitude for things that others have always taken for granted. A student who has labored for years toward a degree will someday know just how amazing it is to have evenings and weekends free for hobbies and relaxation. A patient who has suffered through a broken leg or back surgery will have a sharpened understanding of the joy of pain-free movement. A couple who endured the challenges of infertility treatments must have a heightened sense of excitement over a pregnancy or adoption.
Today, think of your own personal burdens and bitter things. In what ways might they be the forerunners of pleasure?