This is NOT a religious post.

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The priest was speaking today about how we all have to pick up our personal crosses and carry those heavy crosses with grace. I absolutely adore this guy for his no-nonsense, down-to-earth homilies.

“I used to ask God for a smaller cross. Less heavy,” he grinned self-depreciatingly. “But the small metal ones…..they are heavier than big wooden ones. So I learned, just carry it best I can!”

I grinned back at the priest. Later, I would tell him this story about my beloved friend, who was conscripted to join the Soviet Army as a teenager. For the first 18 years of his life, he lived as an aristocrat (much indulged) and it was hugely traumatic for him to be a conscript in the Soviet Army….and he suffered enormously.

After a few months, he learned to be smart. He started figuring out ways to get out of doing arduous tasks. For example, when the troops were supposed to be picking fruits in the countryside, he sneaked back home to a relative’s house nearby (elaborate ploy organised by his adoring and influential parents). And at the end of the work day, he sneaked back into the fields to join the troop, with a big basket of fruits bought by his mother in the shop.

One day, they had to do a really tough endurance exercise, carrying heavy machine guns and running for miles over the inhospitable terrain. Being a smart guy, my friend did a quick count of the number of machine guns put aside for the exercise. He noted that there were three less machine guns than there were soldiers.

So, at the beginning of the exercise, when the machine guns were allocated, he hung back. And sure enough, there were not enough machine guns to go round. A big smile spread over my friend’s face. He thought he was off the hook.

And then…

The captain beckoned the three remaining soldiers to come forward. A huge anti-aircraft grenade launcher was being wheeled out.

“You three,” the captain said. “Carry this and follow the others!”

My friend said he almost passed out with exhaustion carrying parts of the heavy machinery for miles and miles on end. He twisted his ankle but had to carry on. He collapsed at one stage, but his comrades dragged him up and made him carry his load. How he wished, he said, that he had carried what he had been allocated with in the first place – the machine gun, which was much lighter ๐Ÿ™‚

And thus, this is life. We all have our personal crosses to carry. Ancient spiritualism said our burden in this life is what we carry forward from our past lives. In fact, there is a profound saying: “We choose our parents”.

Some of my friends have very heavy crosses, yet they bear their burdens with so much grace and dignity. They ride the storms in their lives with such serenity, such nobility. Yet others choose to moan over their relatively light cross. But however much we moan, the cross is still on our back: we all have to carry something. Nobody has the perfect life (the rich and idle moan more than most) ….just open your eyes and really look at the real suffering around you to see others bearing a greater load.

How to dial down your Moan Meter

  1. Does complaining actually reduce the load? Would it be better to sit down and address the problem head-on?
  2. Is the issue you are complaining about the REAL issue? I used to moan a lot about my youngest child, but truth was, three years of doing nothing was my REAL issue.
  3. Practice gratitude. Yeah, I need reminders all the time to be grateful, so I factor it into my last-thing-at-night mantra: THANK YOU FOR ALL THAT I HAVE….and we do have rather a lot ๐Ÿ™‚