Neither do I, thank God. I hate toothaches. I bet when you read the subject that’s the first thing you thought. Ugh no, not a toothache!!!! Thich Nhat Hanh the famous Buddhist monk says, “When we have a toothache, we know that not having a toothache is a wonderful thing.” So true.
I think that can be said for all suffering or struggling that we do in our lives. When times are good we forget the harder times. Now what I’m talking about here isn’t that when things are good we should wait for the other shoe to drop ( I was just having this conversation this morning.) Sometimes when things are going well I look around waiting for what trial or annoyance will change the mood. That’s not what I’m talking about at all.
I know I’ve mentioned this before but I’ve struggled with anxiety my entire life. I’m talking really struggled I remember feeling so sick in the morning before school because of a laundry list of fears that I would beg my mom to stay home. Or spending entire recess periods fearful of whatever danger could be lurking from mean girls to end of the world catastrophes, I worried a lot.
With the help of medicine, therapy, self-awareness, countless relaxation tools, and some incredibly amazing people in my life I’ve learned to live with anxiety and to not let it get the best of me (most of the time.) This doesn’t always work. Sometimes I feel totally helpless, defeated, out of control, and excuse my language, scared shitless. There are days when I think, holy crap I’m never going to shake this feeling. EVER.
This Thich Nhat Hahn quote is something I come back to in my life. The thought of the enlightenment that can come from something as horrible as a toothache just makes good sense. It’s totally practical. And in my most anxious moments I feel lost and out of control and totally and utterly afraid. I use all sorts of tools and prayer is often one of them. It’s the days after the worst anxiety when I feel most alive, most grateful. It’s because I remember the feeling it’s in my bones. And to not have it feels like the greatest gift I’ve ever received.
I’m not sure I know what all of this means, but I think it means that I’m going to be okay, that you’re going to be okay, that we are all going to be okay. I think it’s just a reminder that there’s an ebb and flow to our days and that we always have the next moment the next chance. Some days that’s all the hope I need. When you have a toothache you know there will be an end to the pain in your head but in the core of your being you feel like it will last forever. In some ways all suffering is like that.
Today I’m choosing gratitude for a day where I’m not feeling crippled by anxiety or stuck in my own way. I kind of think that’s the whole point. What do you think?