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We’ve had some challenging times around here lately.

Spring in Virginia means thunderstorms. Grace is terrified of thunderstorms.

She panics and trembles and is only partially consoled by wearing her Thundershirt (I know it looks silly but it’s based on the fact that babies and autistic folks feel better wrapped. Did you see Temple Grandin? Remember the Squeeze Machine?)

I don’t know exactly what is on her mind, but judging by the fact that she plasters her ears to the side of her head — it’s not good. She is worried. Really worried. So, I wrap her up and try to tell her it’s all going to be O.K., even though she doesn’t believe it. She thinks the world is ending.

I must admit she comes by this dark outlook honestly.

I have the tendency to get overwhelmed by the world, too. I try to stay informed about the state of the planet; famines, wars, appalling stories out of everywhere from North Carolina to North Korea….then I just wish I could stick my head back in the sand. Even the first 15 minutes of Whale Wars: Viking Shores sent me into a spiral of despair.

When I spiral, I re-run all the suffering in my own life – the friends I’ve lost far sooner than I wanted; to cancer, lupus, AIDS and for no known reason at all. I worry about the terrible things that could happen to the people I love and I wait for the other shoe to drop. How do we live in a world full of so much pain?

There is no easy answer. The best one I can find is the Buddhist’s reply.

The First Noble Truth:

Life is dukkha.

What is dukkha? It’s pain. Stress. Suffering. Anxiety. We all have it. It’s an integral part of life and it ain’t going anywhere. Ignoring doesn’t work; trust me, I’ve tried.

I think I’m still in the phase of stomping my feet and whining “Why?? It’s not supposed to be like this!” I think that’s the step Gracie is at, too, as she pouts and stares out the window, cursing the lightning.

It is only when we have the courage to face things exactly as they are without any self deception or illusion that a light will develop out of events by which the path to success may be recognized. 

-I Ching

So, we deal with ourselves gently and try to accept that First Noble Truth. Once we get a handle on that reality, we can mindfully chose how to react and then we can work to improve our own little corner of the universe. We can appreciate the moments that are dukkha-free and we express even more joyful gratitude for them.

But it’s a challenge to get to that point of acceptance. So, while we work on that, we just wrap ourselves up tight and wait for the storm to pass.

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