Yesterday morning, like I do 3-4 times a week, I went paddling on the San Francisco Bay.
When my paddling friends and I met on the Sausalito dock, we all said the same thing: “What a gorgeous, pleasant, nice day!”. The sky was wearing its best sunrise colors, there was no wind, the water was mirror-like, there was no rain, it wasn’t too cold, there was plenty of wildlife. A perfect day! We were excited to go paddling!
For the past month, we had been paddling in quite unpleasant conditions: cold water, chilling wind, low grey clouds, choppy unstable waters, fog and rain. For our bodies, that meant cold hands and feet, wet bodies and soaked hair and skin. Not that nice! Not that enjoyable! (But we were still there! 😉)
As we started paddling this morning, it got me thinking: it’s really the contrast between the bad days and the good days that makes us enjoy even more the good days. Bad days are important in the mix, for without them we would not have that perspective! This means that we should now recognize the added value of those bad days: Kind of like night is making us appreciate daylight, injury is making us appreciate being healthy, loneliness is making us appreciate people, hunger makes us appreciate food, cold is making us appreciate warmth, and so forth.
In my mind, I started to extrapolate the idea to our lives: Do we think the same way? Meaning: Is our happiness only conditioned by the absence of pain and difficulties? Nowadays, “society” really seems to sell us that we should all search for a painless state, where it’s the removal of pain that would result in happiness. There’s some truth to that. But surely the search for happiness can’t be just about making it pain free, easy, fast, trouble free, not complicated! “The less friction, the better? Really?” That’s not the reality, is it? Life, in one moment or another, in always hard and painful, for everyone.
I think we should recognize the pain (physical, mental, psychological, or emotional) for what it can be: for the Ying that allows us to see the Yang. Instead of trying to remove it, we should just accept it, bear it if needed, but try to see its potential value. “A happy life is not the absence of pain. It’s the acceptance of pain”. It’s recognizing that life comes with suffering phases, and rather than try to avoid them at all costs, how about trying to “go through them” and try to see the silver lining in them.
“Change the way you see things. Change your mind. Reframe. And all will be okay”.
The best mindset, and we learn to do that in ultra-endurance, is to start to appreciate the pain and the bad days. For with the right mindset, even they can be a source of pleasure and happiness. What a crazy idea….