Buddha’s jealous cousin once unleashed an elephant on him, hoping the elephant would trample him to death. He fed the elephant alcohol and beat him. The elephant became intoxicated and enraged with anger and pain. Everyone ran as the wild beast approached, but Buddha sat calmly and looked to the elephant with kindness and compassion. The beast kept raging towards him and Buddha still sat calmly, piercing the elephant’s eyes with peace and kindness. As the elephant thundered towards Buddha, the compassion overcame the elephant’s rage and he knelt before Buddha. Buddha stroked his trunk gently and comforted the beast in his pain.
This is our first baby. We’ve been married for almost 5 years, together for 8. We’ve been through death, family troubles, career changes, about a hundred moves, financial woes, addiction, deception, graduate school, undergraduate school. You name it. When my son was first born, my husband would gaze at him in awe every time he held him and say ‘he’s perfect.’ We were, and are head over heels for this child. However, his birth rocked our relationship. We have fought more, more intensely, and more dangerously close to divorce than ever before. How can this new joy bring so much strife? Whether it is sleep deprivation, stress, change, or whatever, it has been intense and painful. We went to a counselor when I genuinely believed we couldn’t make things work. We are still struggling, but I think we are going to be okay. For the moment. Here’s why.
Last month, during one of our bitter battles, during one dark night and day when I didn’t hear from my husband, I had an epiphany. I was in agony. I was alone with our child, I hadn’t slept, I was wondering how I was going to make it as a single mother. I realized this is it. This is all we have. If I can’t rise up and meet this moment, be the best human being that I can be for the sake of my family, then what is the point in me doing anything? Had I really done all I could do? Was I really helpless in this situation? I scanned my memory of the fight. Amidst all the wrongs my husband did, there were my ugly actions and hurtful words. I thought, well, if my husband and child aren’t worth me getting over myself and doing my absolute best, even in the face of a raging elephant, then what is worth it? My lesson from Buddha is this: it doesn’t matter that Buddha did nothing to incite the rage, that he was innocent in the altercation, that he was wronged. He loved and was kind. Maybe the elephant is inside us, maybe he’s the hurt and pain and anger in others. I don’t want to try to be too literal, but I know that reacting with love and peace, in the face of a blind attack of rage and pain (whether from within or without) requires immense strength. If not for you family, why? If not now, when? I am trying, and I am succeeding sometimes, failing others, but I owe it to both my child and my partner to give it everything I’ve got. I just can’t see any point in living unless I do. Best wishes to any new parents, or other couples struggling to live your lives in tandem, my heart goes out to you.