Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Pain and joy connect

We get a lot of societal messages these days telling us we have a right to a happy and perfect life. Ads show happy, clappy people. And even when we're grieving a loss, many folks around us encourage us to get over it. Perhaps it makes them more comfortable to see us happy. In any case, there's a lot of pressure to "don't worry, be happy" these days.

But how realistic is that? Every one of us faces challenges, pain and loss. Facing them and working through them takes time. And it should take time, for there are ever so many lessons to be learned from each of those things. As singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen said in his song "Anthem," everything is cracked and that's how the light gets in.

We don't need to take the opposite approach and glorify pain and suffering. But we need to allow both pain and joy into our lives. I like what inspirational author Mark Nepo says about this in his book Seven Thousand Ways to Listen: Staying Close to What Is Sacred. He speaks of letting in beauty and listening to loss. He reminds us that pain and loss open us up. Further, he says: "This lifelong conversation with love, wonder, and truth in counterpoint with pain, loss, and obstacles is how we dilate and constrict our way into the essence of our aliveness."

I love that: a lifelong conversation between the two. Yes! Think of the width and breadth of such a conversation and how our hearts would expand.

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