Foundations of ease

After decades of wishing, it was the vacation of a lifetime. Jeff and I enjoy the Amalfi Coast of Italy, May 2008.

After decades of wishing, our Mediterranean cruise was the vacation of a lifetime.
Jeff and I enjoy the Amalfi Coast of Italy, May 2008.

“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?

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. I remember this and always think on living in the moment. Life is full of hard roads and I know God will be there in my highs and lows. Praying foe you and Matt, sweet friwnd!🙏❤🙏

    • Thank you, Cherie. It does help to recall that highs and lows are part of every life, and when I’m low, I remind myself that moods are temporary and will pass. Crises are a bit harder to navigate, but even in the midst of troubles we can remind ourselves to hang on because things will almost certainly get better– and if they don’t, we will somehow find a way to survive. ❤

  2. mike c

    Chaim Potek–novel “Something that is yours forever is never precious.”

    • I’m somewhat familiar with Chaim Potok’s work– I have several of his books, including the memorable My Name is Asher Lev— but I’m not familiar with that title (or is it a quote)?

  3. mike c

    It is a quote from conversation grandfather to grandson. Why do things and people die? I don’t have any of his books and never read any either. I think the quote is fr om the above book you mention. Any good. I just finished “The growth of the soil.” I struggled getting through it and don’t understand what the big deal is. I thought it was disturbing and then i read about the author and his pro- Nazi views. This is from a talk by my favorite spirtual writer Ronn Rollheiser.

    • I’m not familiar with any of that. The question of why things die is something we all have to resolved, and though people come up with vastly different takes on the answer, most of us make peace with it eventually. I wrote a poem in response to Dylan Thomas’s “Do not go gentle into that good night” for my Oxford Poetry Workshop, and the professor (or tutor, as they call them at Oxford) had good things to say about it. It’s another villanelle, but written from the standpoint of the dying father talking back to his son’s grief.

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