Forward and back at the same time

Be open to your happiness and sadness as they arise. – John M. Thomas

I love this (also yet another sky photograph). As my Landslide post described, happiness and sadness arise for me out of thin air sometimes, swamping me like an unanticipated wave. At other times they come up with a steadier drumbeat, reaching a more conventional crescendo.

This is, I believe, one of the major tasks of my life: to learn to ride these various swells and ebbs without fear, to honor each moment as it comes, to trust that sadness will eventually make way to happiness again as firmly as I already know that joy will fade away to melancholy.

And after all, the happiness means nothing without the sadness. That is another of the few things I know for sure. What I’m not sure of is whether this is about capacity or contrast. I lean towards capacity, but I’m not entirely certain. I don’t love The Prophet, but one of Gibran’s lines encapsulates this more perfectly than I ever could: The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

(a repost from last summer, as we cruise into summer here.  So much is the same and so much is different.  I am still oscillating between happiness and sadness, still zigzagging along the border of light and dark, still moving in those undulating rhythms of life that move me somehow forward and back at the same time.)

8 thoughts on “Forward and back at the same time”

  1. I don’t love “The Prophet” either… it always reminds me of a school essay for the college I most wanted to get into but did not… one of many punch to the gut disappointments that have conspired to deepen my capacity for containing joy.

    I so strongly recognize the ebb and flow of emotion you so often evoke, and I find that they oscillate with increasing frequency now that they seem to run in some sort of alternating current that is always elated and melancholy at the same time… perhaps some sort of increasing capacity for being alive.

    I am also hoping that the more able that we are to widen our consciousness and connect in the difficult feelings, the more they prove to be a way that we are pushed to connect. As a therapist I am aware that no one crosses the threshold to my office without despair, but if we can find the deeper core of the journey the despair can turn out to be something of a soul’s guidance system toward our authentic paths.

  2. I love the image of the alternating current of elation and melancholy at the same time … and the idea that we are increasing our capacity for being alive.
    Thank you.

  3. “Oscillating between happiness and sadness,” oh how I know that well. And no matter how much we recognize it in ourselves it still takes our breath away doesn’t it. Happy Memorial Day to you Lindsay! I hope it’s full of happy, family memories.

  4. Lindsey,

    I wrote about the very same thing for my happiness post for Momalom. I am believer that unless you experience sadness, you cannot understand the depths of true happiness. After experiencing sadness, I’ve learned to really relish the true and pure happy moments. I don’t think I understood happiness completely until I lost my father.

    I am perplexed by the oscillating nature of happiness and sadness. I often tell my husband that while we are celebrating an event or a certain happiness, somewhere else in the world, someone is experiencing a great sadness.

    Thanks for your insight.

  5. I’ve always thought it was about contrast, but now you have me thinking about capacity. What I have room for. What I MAKE room for. Should I stop making so much space for sadness, and embrace happiness instead? Interesting to think about.

  6. Thanks for this reminder of the process, Lindsay. This morning I felt unusually peaceful, and even as I became aware of that, I knew the feeling would change, and reminded myself to be okay with whatever comes next. I think of it as breathing, in and out, always changing.

  7. Oh, you read my mind and echo my heart, Lindsey. Happiness and sadness are inherently woven together. They cannot reside one without the other. And melancholy is okay – sometimes I actually want to reside in that emotional space, to reflect and grow in ways I only can when I’m a bit sad.

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