There’s a lot of pressure to keep everything up – chin, butt and all the other parts. We’re supposed to be happy and hopping all the time. I’ll admit, it’s pretty easy to be jolly if you’re in love, wealthy, healthy, or an optimist, but dealing with loss or life’s challenges is difficult.
Life is full of ups and downs… death, taxes, divorce, or celebrating births. But admitting our sorrow or confusion is part of it too. And sometimes getting our emotional hairballs out relieves us, helps us feel chipper again. Hard changes or curve balls teach us life’s lessons and give us compassion. Still, whether it’s people dying, getting sick, money issues, or reading the news, life can be tough.
Life can be deliriously ecstatic, serene, scary, or sad. New age positive thinking has its points; control your mind, be content. Of course we deserve to be happy. I used to have this idea that “sitting in the dark” was a deep-thinker’s fate. Then I found Judy Tatelbaum’s book. On her mother’s deathbed, her mom said, “Don’t cry for me.” Her book, You Don’t Have to Suffer, says it’s not necessary to dwell on loss too long.
Still, when you have the blues, in a culture that worships the smiley face, it can make you want to hide. And just a heads up: if your friend is going through loss, heed Jacqueline Novak’s advice: “When people pressure you to ‘snap out of it,’ you shut down and become more resistant than you would have been otherwise.”
Our society pressures us to be cheery. But, it’s just as important to have sensitive emotions as it is to feel perky. Without joy, we don’t feel vital. But without sorrow we have no empathy. The bottom line is that being our entire selves is an act of authenticity and courage. So, have a ball or stay serene but also share the suffering of this world. Roll with it and keep caring about others, the land, abused animals, the children, all of the precious earth. One out of five seniors will develop Alzheimer’s or some other dementia. And that’s just a smidgeon of realities facing us. We’re just one earthquake away from needing each other.
Francis Weller says, “The work of the mature person is to carry grief in one hand and gratitude in the other and to be stretched large by them.” So, I wrote a letter to my heart last night: I’m sorry I didn’t hold you when my parents died or when my soul sank into an inferno during the foreclosure years. I shut down when I believed the banks would help me but instead they hit me hard every day with auction letters. I honor you for your wounds when friends betrayed you or when bosses were cruel.
I mended my misfortunes and memories by giving them a little tenderness. It’s okay to be all of yourself. As Brené Brown says about being authentic and not guilty about our foibles and flaws: “All of this pretending and performing, these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt [have] to go. Your armor is preventing you from growing into your gifts. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think… It’s time to show up and be seen.”
Watch the bouncing ball.