There seems to be this striving for happiness that I see all the time in our lives, in the media, with our friends and family, throughout our social networks. Books are written. Songs, sermons and strategies are meant to lift us up. Broaden our smiles. Engage our happy muscles.
It’s like we’re all meant to be on this wonderful, blissed out, peaceful journey with nothing but goodness and satisfaction along the way.
If only it were so.
Unfortunately, life’s not quite like that. I always remember the line from Scott Peck’s, The Road Less Travelled “life is difficult”. Why do we expect it to be all nicey nice?
And when it isn’t – we think there must be something wrong with our life, or with us.
I can only speak from my own experience but there have certainly been many ups and downs, struggles and hardships along the way.
Even when digging into the warm and wonderful memories with grandparents and Christmas and school days and waterskiing and such, they are soon dotted with broken promises, childhood teasing, let alone the trials and tribulations of threading the needle through adolescence. Or on to more serious stuff like abusive relationships, alcoholic rages, addictions and cancers and death.
Contrasting that, there are times filled with wonderful experiences, moments of extreme fullness and love and joy and happiness and peace.
There is both.
For each of us.
How do we learn to appreciate the joys unless there are the struggles. How do we learn love unless we experience apathy. How do come to understand, until we move from me to you.
One great gift I have received from yoga is the ability to feel it all. Where once I seemed closed off from the ups and downs of life, ignoring the signs in my body that were trying to guide me along the way I seem to slowly, ever so slowly, be opening up to the notion that it is all there. Within me. And it is all worthy of my attention.
I can feel sad and lonely and upset and down or afraid and sit with that. Or I can feel elated, excited, loved, fantastic, or even majestic. And sit with that.
It is not incumbent on us to be happy in order to be successful in this life. The point is, to feel it all, to experience it all, to love, to lose, to learn, to live, to wonder and to eventually … let it all go.
One of the things I read a while ago made so much sense to me. It was by Dr. Brene Brown and she talked about how we tend to close down and deaden negative feelings and experiences. Which is a natural reaction or instinct when it comes to our survival. The problem is, it’s difficult to just close down or deaden some of our feelings. So what tends to happen is we deaden all of them. The good and the bad.
So if you see me and I am not hyped-up positive, exuding light and lightness in my day, perhaps it’s because I don’t feel that in this moment. And maybe you can lift me up. Or maybe I can just be that for the time being.
Tomorrow I may feel the same or be experiencing the joys of something else in my life and both you and I can be accepting of that as well.
My hope is to experience it and acknowledge it all, for that is what makes us human.
It is not all good. It is not all bad. It just is.
Published in Elephant Journal, 15 November 2011.