Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Apples and Oysters

Once long ago I said to a friend that I felt stupid complaining about my suffering, because in the world there was such profound examples of suffering and mine paled by comparison. She said: "Well, that is like comparing apples and oranges. Who is to say that your suffering is less than that of anyone else? Does it matter? Suffering is suffering".

Apparently, this saying, "like comparing apples and oranges" originally was "as an apple to an oyster," like in Taming of the Shrew when Biondello does an eye roll when being compared to Tranio's father, and says out of the corner of his mouth "as much as an apple doth an oyster..."

Pointless comparisons aside, there is plenty of suffering in the world.

Recently, California passed the End of Life Option Act, which makes it legal for a physician to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to someone whom is likely to die in the next 6 months and whom requests it and whom 2 doctors certify as terminal and whom is in their right mind. This has been law for awhile in Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana. Oregon was first, and the main reason people participated there was not pain or other physical symptoms, but rather loss of dignity and dependence on others.

I cannot say how much suffering is or should be tolerable for any one person. I do know that I cannot personally end a life, at least not as my primary intention.

Hear are a few things I have learned about suffering in my life to date:
1) It is universal
2) We do not like to talk about it
3) It will only get worse if we elect Donald Trump as POTUS

In Amsterdam, there is an ubiquitous symbol, on flags, on man holes, on sides of buildings, on billboards: XXX. This is not an allusion to the debauchery of this City, which, truth be told, although is a place for tourists to smoke pot and visit prostitutes, is one of the more kind and unassuming places I have ever visited. Triple X refers to the cross of St Andrew. It is the official symbol, and may represent "compassion, heroism and resolution." It may also represent the suffering of the city, including fire, floods and the black death. Either way, I kind of like that it is just right there, reminding you of sorrow and higher values, whilst the inhabitants ride their bikes and tolerate the shenanigans of visitors. Amsterdam has good food, and you would never be able to do any hill workouts there. On the upside, you could very well run a PR anywhere in the Netherlands. And you could fuel it with excellent cheese and a decided lack of pretense.

Recently, my son was arrested and put in jail. After jail, it appears prison is in store. I did not know there was difference until now, and I am learning new things every day. If you go on line to local news sources, you will see a lot of opinions about how awful he is and how terrible the parents must be that raised him. But I have this to say: "(he) that is here without sin among you, let (him) cast the first stone..." Yep, it is super easy to judge people when you have no idea about their suffering and the blows life has dealt to them. My apples, your oysters, but the suffering is real no matter which fruit or fruit of the sea you identify with.

So, how does one proceed through suffering? This is really what the bulk of my professional career is about. I can prescribe medications to diminish suffering. I can recommend lifestyle changes to reduce health problems that cause suffering. I can legally prescribe death for your suffering now too--but I will not. I think a certain amount of suffering is expected as human beings.

As a parent, I can say I will show up and acknowledge my own suffering, the sadness of my son and the impact on my family. I can apologize to my community and hope for a better future for my child and others who struggle. I can get up each day and show up for work and go for runs and play piano and appreciate the small beauties presented to me.

I can enjoy apples. I can enjoy oysters, though as a vegetarian I am not overly fond of eating them outright.

I do have a prescription to offer to all who suffer, whether it be from a bad haircut, a child in prison, or a life threatening disease:
Kindness. Take every minute of every day, and give to everyone you meet every minute of every day. Side effects: happiness, calmness and hope.

My Boy. I love him, no matter what.


  1. My sympathies for your heartache. I love the caption on your son's photo.

  2. My sympathies for your heartache. I love the caption on your son's photo.

  3. What a courageous post. I found your blog through your guest post on returning to running, but I read this and wanted to encourage you as you walk (and run) this difficult stage of your life journey.