Minimizing Suffering and Finding What I Truly Need

I have a wall in my bedroom over the side of my bed that is completely blank. It’s bland and boring to look at, but I swore to myself when I moved in that I’d fill it with artwork. I wanted to make the wall my fan art wall and plaster it with work from various Critical Role fan artists. But mainly Tess Fowler’s work. I love her work. I highly suggest checking it out.

Every day I see that wall, which is still bare. I have yet to procure one piece of art. I’m too broke to buy any. But my mind is still striving, scheming, and planning to put at least one of Tess’s watercolors on it. The thing is, the longer the wall stays bare, the more stress I endure in wanting to put art on it. It’s another entry on the long list of wants and desires I have running in my head, most of which I’ll most likely never accomplish.

The number of things on my desires list grows, and so does the stress and anxiety of not fulfilling those desires. This takes a dire toll on my mental health. I want art. I want to go to GenCon. I want to go to the UK. I want a super awesome PC I can play any game on for the next 20 years. I want a better car. I want my own home. I want a better job. All of these things weigh on my psyche and the load is quite a burden.

It took me listening to one of my favorite podcasts to have something click in my head. It was an episode of Cox N’ Crendor, hosted by two of my favorite YouTubers/Twitch streamers, Jesse Cox and, well, Crendor. On the latest episode, Jesse mentioned the four truths of Buddahism. For those not familiar with them, here they are, paraphrased:

  1. Life is suffering.
  2. Suffering is caused by desire and ignorance.
  3. Suffering can be ended by achieving Nirvana.
  4. Nirvana can be achieved through good moral conduct, meditation and mental development, and wisdom or insight.

The first two truths really struck me. They perfectly describe the burden on my mental health from wanting things. I desire things that may or may not give me actual happiness and in doing so, it is causing me suffering. Some of the things I desire would add to my stress and anxiety very much, but I still want them. This makes absolutely no sense.

So I started thinking about the things I truly wanted and tried to determine why I wanted them. I boiled down my desires to three reasons: I want to be comfortable, I want to feel like part of a group or something bigger, and I want to experience something. Then I determined whether or not these things would actually make me happy.

Comfort is something of a double-edged sword for me. Being comfortable makes me feel safe and protected. It shelters me from the big, cruel world and everything that makes me sad. However, being comfortable doesn’t inspire change. Improvement requires being uncomfortable. Learning requires vulnerability and openness. This certainly doesn’t allow me to develop mentally or gain wisdom or insight.

As a person who has been left to his own devices throughout his life, I have developed great skills to deal with being alone. But there are times in my life that I really would like to be recognized as being part of a group. For instance, I have this notion that if I were to own a piece of Tess’s work, I’d truly be a part of the Critical Role fandom. It would be a badge of honor I could show to others as if to say, “Yes, I too belong here.” But being part of that group has nothing to do with any art I own, or piece of merchandise I bought. I am part of that group simply by being a fan of the show. Needing that badge is unnecessary and not worth the mental strain.

I’ve always been obsessed with the UK and I dream to step foot in the motherland at least once in my life. I crave that experience and the knowledge I could obtain by having such an experience. It’s gotten so ingrained in my mind that I NEED to go that it would feel like a life wasted if I never make it there. But that is certainly not true at all. I don’t need to have that experience to validate my existence. I can live a totally fulfilling, productive life without ever crossing the Atlantic.

All of these revelations have led me to distill my life down to what I need and what makes me happy. Needs are easy. Food, shelter, clothes, a job, a little bit of money, friends. But the things that make me happy are harder to pin down. I had to take stock of everything that goes on in my life and pinpoint everything that makes me happy.

The first thing that came to mind was that being surrounded by stories makes me happy. Hearing others tell stories, making stories of my own, and having things that have interesting stories behind them truly make me smile. This is why I love watching and playing D&D. Storytelling is by far the thing that gives me the most joy.

Another thing that makes me happy is learning. It doesn’t matter the subject. If I take an interest in something, I will find every rabbit hole to dive down until I know as much as I can about it. And it also makes me happy to share my knowledge with others. I think this is why I have finally buckled down and kept up with a blog. This is my outlet for storytelling and sharing my knowledge.

Helping others has grown to be something that has also given me lots of happiness. Seeing those who are in need and being able to get them back on their feet, fighting for those who are discriminated against, and making sure everyone is treated equally is a passion that has grown in the past decade for me. I’ve been down a lot in my life, and I’ve always been grateful for those who lifted me up. I feel compelled to do the same for others.

So, I’ve identified the things that truly make me happy and have justified dropping those things I desire that cause me great stress. Now I have to implement those things into my life. Getting myself used to focusing only on those things will be difficult because my brain has a habit of not taking to change well, but with diligence and slow, steady improvement I think I can finally take the steps to minimizing suffering in my life.