It’s Lammas Eve here in the Village Gardenhouse — I prefer to celebrate the Cross-Quarter Festivals on their true in-between dates — and as my son and I prepare for our First Harvest celebration tomorrow, I have spent the day pondering what abundance really means, and why it’s possible to experience abundance no matter what your circumstances.
No amount of suffering has convinced me that life is hard. And I have suffered. I have suffered enough to have attempted suicide in my early teens and, failing that, began the slow, methodical death of an eating disorder which I was only able to fully put a stop to about four years ago. The first time I began fantasizing about suicide, I was only nine years old and had already endured more than my fair share. Nowadays, I find life to be fun, easy, and simple, despite money being tight and all sorts of other things people might label “problems” and “complications,” but I still have struggles — for example, endometriosis, which is agonizing pain worse than childbirth for several days to weeks every month.
I don’t say all that to garner sympathy or pity, and I have no interest in delving into the unpleasant details of my childhood or evaluating whether or what labels a psychiatrist would attempt to give me. I say it so that you won’t think I’m blinded to suffering by a privileged existence, and arguing whether an ant or a spider has it better is a waste of breath. We have all suffered this lifetime, and every lifetime — even the most obnoxiously wealthy, incredibly privileged, and atrociously inconsiderate person has suffered, if not directly by an abusive parent, by ethnic inequities, or by living in an occupied nation, at least indirectly by the psychological pressures of living in a world where suffering exists, and for having caused it themselves.
Our society places too much emphasis on material wealth, but it also focuses too much on mental illness. There’s a difference between being aware that we’re all struggling with our inner demons, of one sort or another, between having compassion for and seeking to relieve one another’s internal struggles, and indulging in them, between empathy and encouragement. One aspect of the #MeToo movement that I have really appreciated is the focus on action and resolution over indulging in victimization and suffering. Yes, I have been raped, I have suffered, but I can’t imagine how much more I would be suffering if I let those experiences and let my internal struggles define me. I am not a “victim,” I am not a “survivor,” I am not a “mental-illness sufferer.” It is not an aspect of my identity any more than the fact that I am 5’4” and like hazelnut coconut-milk creamer in my coffee. The material world doesn’t define me as a spiritual being (or “soul”), and neither do my mental aberrations. None of that is me. They are trappings, and traps.
When we move through life with these trappings is when it becomes difficult, because life only becomes hard when we stop noticing all that the Universe is offering. When I was so lonely that I thought I would fall apart, I was given the opportunity to love someone more than I’d ever loved before — and then another, and another. When homelessness seemed inevitable, someone I hadn’t spoken to in ten years opened his doors to me. When I thought my mother and I would die estranged due to her alcoholism and abuse, she had a miraculously unlikely wake-up call and we have had a wonderful relationship for the first time in my life ever since.
I will be the first to admit that it takes courage and faith, though, more than I have had times — and during those times, it felt as if all doors are closed. But the moment I increased my courage and faith, doors swung wide.
True abundance doesn’t refer to the number in your bank account or how many days this week that you felt happy. It doesn’t even mean the amount of food on your table or the number of friends who will join you there. Abundance is the favor of the Gods, the affection of the Spirits, and being the pride of your Ancestors, and the only guarantee of it is doing good, no matter how small the act. Your actions ripple throughout all the worlds and yes, they will always return to you.