Now it's the relative trivialities of life that baffle me, like "Is how I'm spending my time worthy use of a finite life?" Is it enough to spend my free time reading books and writing essays? Should I spend another afternoon baking cookies for my precious babies when other mothers have been forced to sell their children into slavery in order to survive?
I've been told that one should never ask for suffering because life supplies plenty of suffering without our asking for it, but that has not been my experience. My life is easy; and my suffering, if truly I have any, is typically the result of my gluttony. I have the responsibility of rearing these five children, but I'm not the first woman to have children in a difficult culture with discouraging spiritual odds. My greatest challenge in a day's work is to find ways to move against the current of an otherwise blissed-out life. I often do so with arbitrary conflict and self-seeking.
I could shut off the power in our house; I could get a goat and milk it; I could play Parcheesi in the dark every night with my kids; I could find a million ways to add more work to my life without adding intrinsic meaning. Mine is a life marked by abundance and blessing—with or without electricity—and I feel convicted, for the time being, that I need not ask for suffering so much as I should freely do penance in efforts to add a little more yang to my life. Systematic and voluntary deprivation not only make the heart grow fonder, but they are a balm for the burden of having been so blessed that deprivation is a little fiction I create for myself.
This was written in the deep winter of 2011.