Dumped into life’s slop recently, I turned to a book I’ve had on my shelf for a long time but never read: Crooked Cucumber. Just a few pages in, Shunryo tells the story of feeding pigs as a youth that are never satisfied, won’t eat until he leaves because they always want more. This is how we are with problems, says Shunryo, always wanting more when we have “just enough problems.”

Well, my just enough problems included a new position with new responsibilities sprung on me with little warning. My (too) simple life suddenly got too complicated with too much stress. The things I am not all that good at (details and accounting) suddenly became many of the tasks that I needed to be good at, and the consequences felt serious. As my Norwegian grandmother used to say, uff-da! The stink of all that I disliked made me miserable as it all piled up. But it was compounded by commitments I had already made for things that stirred my passions and rewarded my soul.

Oh, it was a huge conflict of attachments and aversions all at the same time. But besides that, it was also totally exhausting. I was working an average of 10+hour days regularly trying to meet all the various demands that needed to be met. The weight upon me felt huge in every way; physically, existentially, monetarily, and psychically. Life just sucked because I was just surrounded by shit, and what made it worse was that I cared about all the outcomes that were my responsibility, which meant that I needed to turn all of that shit into flowers. To shrug anything off was not an option. I felt like the narrow end of a wide funnel; the flow was just too fast and all I could do was try to keep it contained.

Long story short, everything worked out, some things quite well and others as good as can be expected. But I became so miserable during it all that I was like Shunryo’s pig with a bad attitude that just kept asking for more than the just enough problems I already had with all the demands on me.

The pig is my new favorite animal, and having just enough problems is my new mantra. We get all the problems we need, and how we deal with them can only add on to them. Living life lessons sucks, but the rewards of recognizing our pig-ness can be its own non-reward.

Here is image of how it felt to be surrounded by all my shit with Buddhist sun on the other side, which is of course no side at all.