Is taking things for granted a privilege? Sometimes I think so, yes, of course it is. And in the spirit of taking things for granted, I yearn for the quiet life, untrammelled by pangs of conscience or worry, reading my books, sat warm and comfortable in a peaceful space…with a clear mind and gentle ambitions carrying me through the years.  

Yet, such a vision of privilege and calm makes me restless: to live! Despite all the small obstacles that seem to gather round like spectres on a stormy day – there are always things I have to do, needling me away from what I prefer to be doing – something keeps my head up, and my desire to move, moving: I know I will get where I want to be, if only I keep faith. I will go for walks in the fresh air. I will enjoy swimming and laughing. I will write blog posts, I will finish my books and submit short stories. I will have fun and live a big life. I do.

Reading an account by a Buddhist friend of mine, who first became aware that recounting his life’s misfortunes made him the envy of his Buddhist friends – for to have misfortune thrown at one’s feet is to be given opportunities for that most sought-after gift, spiritual growth – made me realise that in some way, all misfortune can be strengthening: it puts one’s own circumstances into different contexts – I lost my house in a fire, but I and my kids escaped unharmed – or it forces one to choose fully – I’m alive, by some miracle, and I don’t intend to waste another second.

It’s taken many years for me to come to an accommodation with who I am and the challenges I’ve been given: small ones, like being constantly uncomfortable, and bigger ones, like making something meaningful out of life, not just existing. And I still rock between being sharply aware of the many ways in which I am fortunate – is that sharpness forcing me to notice ways in which life can be unfortunate? – and relaxing, trusting that I am allowed to enjoy life fully. As they say, Life is a work in progress, and I think I’m making progress.

Thanks for listening.

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