When Things Fall Apart

Suffering ceases when we accept what has happened


Simple-petalled yellow dahlia with one petal missing.
A dahlia falling apart at Evergreen. Things are always falling apart.

Pema Chödrön, an American Tibetan Buddhist, wrote a book called When Things Fall Apart.


I wish she’d called it If Things Fall Apart, but she’s obviously a realist and doesn’t hide behind pointless, fearful hopes that everything will go along just fine.


Things fell apart recently in my life.


I wrote a memoir about growing up in a cultish Christian religion with Jewish leanings, and the rather complicated process of weaning myself from the need of having a God sitting on a throne in the sky watching my every move. I submitted it to several literary agents and publishers and finally caught the interest of an editor. She emailed me several times as my memoir progressed along the selection process. She finally informed me that she planned to present it to an Acquisitions Meeting (this deserves capitals because it’s heady stuff!).


I knew when the meeting was being held and had my personal phone on my desk at work so I could hear the great news as soon as possible – or the sad news, of course.


I didn’t think I was attached to the outcome. I reminded myself every five minutes that the decision could go either way. I practised being a Buddhist all day. No attachment means no suffering. What is, is. Live in the moment.


The hours ticked by.


Late afternoon my world fell apart.


An email from the editor . . . writing to let you know that your manuscript was the subject of some discussion at today’s acquisitions meeting but unfortunately . . .


I felt a crumbling inside me. A disintegration. Things didn’t fall apart. I did.


People still came into my office and asked questions, which I answered somehow, but my voice didn’t seem to belong to me. I continued to complete the tasks on the desk and talk on the phone. My eyes were burning as I held back tears I dared not shed for fear they’d flood the room. Sometimes I forgot to breathe. I felt weak. Disconnected. Floating. Not real.


I don’t like what is! I don’t want this moment! I want a better one! I am suffering!


In Chapter 11 of When Things Fall Apart:


. . . nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.

In other words, suffering never goes away until we learn from it. Then suffering dissolves.


It took about 24 hours for my suffering to cease. It went away when I accepted the outcome.


This experience wasn’t teaching me that publishers have bad taste or that literary memoirs aren’t marketable or that I’m a lousy writer. It was teaching me to accept life. It was a reminder to accept what the moment brings and work with it, not against it. The email didn’t announce the end of the world. It just closed one possible opening for my book. There are other editors I can approach.


I don’t like suffering. It hurts. It gives me a headache and cramps my body. I close down, when I should be opening up.


Suffering ceases when we accept what has happened and begin to work with it.


Remember this when (not if) things fall apart for you.


With love, Marlane


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