Almost everyone I talk to these days when referencing their personal level of suffering during the pandemic will preface their comments by stating that they know that others are suffering a lot more than they are. There is almost a level of guilt about our personal suffering as compared to what others are enduring. I find it curious that we don’t this same comparative thinking for other emotions, such as our own happiness.
I’ll share a personal story from last week. My intention for this email last week was to write about our new puppy. We picked her up on Sunday, the 19th. As you can see from the picture above, she is a very cute nine-week-old Golden Retriever. We named her Hope which seemed very appropriate for 2020. As I sat down to write last Thursday, our puppy world had been turned upside down because Hope had some kind of illness that resulted in a lot of vomiting and a complete lack of appetite. By Thursday, she had been on IV fluids at the veterinarians for more than a day and they were very concerned. My level of suffering that day was high. I, too, remarked to a colleague that it seemed crazy for me to have these feelings having had the puppy for only three days and that I knew that others were suffering more than I was. Thankfully, Hope is fine and is now doing what we expect puppies to do: wreaking havoc in our house and not allowing us to have a good night’s sleep.
I think that suffering is very personal and, in the moment, is not measured on a scale relative to the pain that others are feeling or how others might view the pain you are enduring. Merriam Webster defines the verb suffer as “to submit to or be forced to endure.” I don’t think we control our feelings of suffering. During the pandemic, we all are being forced to endure and I think we all have suffered in various ways. We should accept those feelings and not minimize what we feel by comparing ourselves to others. When looking back on our suffering, it is healthy to put it into perspective but in the moment, it still hurts.
This week’s selections are below:
Time of the Magicians by Wolfram Eilenberger
A grand narrative of the intertwining lives of Walter Benjamin, Martin Heidegger, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Ernst Cassirer, major philosophers whose ideas shaped the twentieth century. This book traces the paths of these remarkable and turbulent lives, which feature not only philosophy but some of the most important other figures of the century, including John Maynard Keynes, Hannah Arendt, and Bertrand Russell.
The Guest List by Lucy FoleyA glitzy wedding party on a remote Irish island; an ambitious bride and groom for whom appearance is everything; a jostling cast of narrators, all nursing secrets and resentments. Then the storm hits and someone turns up dead.