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Some changes look negative on the surface but you soon realize that space is being created for something new to emerge. — Eckhart Tolle

“The heaviest of burdens is simultaneously an image of life’s most intense fulfillment. The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become. — Milan Kundera

Jungians have a term for a type of person who isn’t very grounded or interested in being grounded. I fit that type pretty closely. The word is Puer, Latin for boy. Jungians disagree whether it’s good or bad to be a Puer. James Hillman sees the positive aspects, which I find encouraging because, you guessed it, I’m a Puer. Even at my age I am playful, imaginative, creative, impractical and maybe a bit facile.

But, unbeknownst to most people, I have carried a load that kept my attention on my body and the physical world. A serious road accident and a touch of polio installed persistent pain in my body at a young age that has never been successfully addressed. I learned to plot my way forward in spite of it, but it’s always in the background.

Maybe that’s not a bad thing. Healthy kids my age never came back from Vietnam. People like me tend to float, though, and not stick to any one thing, flitting from one relationship or occupation to another. However, I’ve stuck with painting for over five decades and have managed to do some good work. Nobody’s a pure type.

My point is that burdens can confer depth, in a sense. You gain strength and substance as you wrestle with the load you carry over the years. I don’t wish away my challenges, although I passed close to death and don’t remember ever having been pain-free. It seems they were calibrated to what I could handle.

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Art; Steven Kenny

I understand that enduring pain is not the same as being crushed by catastrophe. But I have learned to appreciate their gifts. There are few things in life that confer no gifts at all. The temptation is to accept the pleasures and shun the pains. I’m not a masochist, I don’t go looking for pain, but I have noticed the strange phenomenon of the benefits of trouble, of challenges and, yes, pain.

It’s one of those paradoxical conundrums.

Written by

I occasionally write fiction and also about creativity, loving, language learning and travel. I’m a longtime painter and reader.

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