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It's OK to Hate the Mushy Peas

As a child I was often told that starving children in China would be happy to have the mushy peas I carefully picked out from the Campbell's vegetable soup and left in the bowl. I felt bad for the starving children, but that wasn't going to make me like the mushy peas -- or the occasional lima beans that kept them company after everything else was gone.

I thought of that this week because of a couple of unexpected events that caused some strong shifts in the family Force. Nothing awful -- a car given a terminal diagnosis, a recurring expense that the new health insurance covers far less of than the previous policy. Unexpected. Unpleasant. Inconvenient. But not tragic.

It's interesting to watch where your mind goes when the earth shifts. There's a moment when you feel it, and then the mind starts to scramble. Uneven ground is uncomfortable. So the mind seeks level ground again. It looks for someone to blame -- or absorbs the blame itself. What was done? What was not done? Who did or didn't do it? What should have been done? What should happen now? What might happen next? Can I ignore it? Pretend it didn't happen? Assure myself it isn't important -- after all, there are children starving somewhere, buildings exploding, wars being fought, and I'm upset about a car.

And while there's value in putting our suffering into perspective, I think it's important to acknowledge the shock to the system, to be disconcerted, surprised, and confused. To accept the feelings that arise before evaluating the situation.

Knowing that other people have it worse, that my problems are mushy peas while others deal with massive boulders, can convince me to disallow my feelings. And I fear I'm even worse when I'm dealing with other people's feelings. I want them to feel OK, and I may jump into telling them why they're OK before letting them be not OK with what's happening.

But the feeling isn't really about the car; it's about the loss, about change, about impermanence. It's a reminder of the inevitable breakdown of everything, the truth of impermanence. And that's universal. It's a connection with all of the humans who are discovering that. Change is scary, loss hurts. Touching that in myself opens me up to touching it in others; denying it in myself, even if it's because I see it as less legitimate than others' pain, closes me off to all of it.

It's OK to hate the mushy peas, even if someone else would like them or is so hungry that they'd appreciate them even if they didn't like the taste or texture. Let those feelings remind you that everybody is faced with things they don't much like to varying degrees -- and make the aspiration that all beings have good things that bring them happiness, that all beings don't have the things that bring them unhappiness, and that all beings have the equanimity to sit with both.

And do what you can to share what you have. Donate to a food bank. Hold a friend's sadness with love before cheering them up. Don't tell a serious-faced person to smile -- just smile at them.

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