Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Light and Dark, Laughter & Tears

I do not believe in accidents.
Things happen that seem random, chance, coincidental. But I believe it is simply the universe delivering up lessons when we are ready to receive them.
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The trick is for me to be open to what is laid before me, ready to learn the lessons placed in my path. I recently had a seemingly "chance" encounter with a woman who has offered up just such a lesson. I'm trying to let it sink in deep.
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I was at a social event where I crossed paths with a delightful lady who I had heard much about from a mutual friend. Because the friend we both know had said so many nice things about the woman, I was immediately drawn to her and pleased to have the chance to get to meet her for myself. We spent the evening talking about many things - books, work, love, life. It was a great evening.
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At some point I asked her: "What makes you laugh?" She gave a light hearted response at the time. But later, sent the following e-mail message:
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"I've given more thought to your question about laughter. Surprisingly for me, I hadn't really reflected on how I moved from a fairly serious and unfun period into having capacity for much more joy. I've concluded that my increased ability to laugh from the heart has something to do with learning not to run away from the darker side of things. Counter intuitive, I know.
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I really have made an effort to notice things about myself and my life that I used to turn away from. For me, it was a difficult thing to just look at something like feeling lonely and accept it as it is. If I forced myself to stay with that sort of experience, then the next urge was to rush in and try to immediately change it. I feel much more at peace now that I can just notice it and spend time giving what I used to see as the darker stuff it's fair air play, so to speak. For example, to say to myself "w ow, I'm really very sad right now". Sometimes I think about why the feelings have come, sometimes I just accept it as is and sit with that experience until it runs it's course.
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When I was young, I couldn't do that since I was afraid of engulfment, but now I have the experience to know my feelings and experiences can't consume me.
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Anyway, I think as I've been more willing to embrace my sadness, anxiety, shame, and so on, my ability to be joyful has really grown. I laugh more because I cry more...I feel more authentic and at peace for letting the whole range of emotions surface."
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I've thought much about these words. I think they were exactly what I needed to hear.
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I have a long history of trying to FIX IT when I feel sad/lonely/upset or anything painful. I either distract myself or willfully manipulate myself back into a sunnier state. At times I've been known to pummel my more vulnerable emotions with punitive blame- insisting they change and change right now any time the dark side comes calling. I get tangled up in my belief system about how "we create our own reality and I can choose to be happy and at peace right now". Allowing myself to stay in anything negative feels like doing something weak or bad or wrong.
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While I DO believe we create our own reality, I think it's high time I get over assuming it's going to be like magic ' Abracadabra, presto chango! ' and accept it's more like baking a cake. If I put in the right ingredients and go through the PROCESS of baking, then out comes a lovely cake....but if I take it out of the oven before it has time to fully cook all I get is gooey dough.
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Maybe dealing with difficult feeling states is much the same way. Yes, I CAN relinquish pain and choose peace. But sometimes I need to allow for a healthy dose of patience to let the emotions run their course of making the transition. Too often I've tried to zoom from zero to sixty in making it all better immediately, not giving myself permission to feel what it is my heart needs to feel.
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Perhaps it's time to find a new pattern, and to quit being so punitive with myself when dark days come. Feeling sad or out of sorts is NOT "getting it wrong". It's just life lessons dressed up in a different color. There is much I can learn from being willing to be open and present to the full spectrum of what my heart has to offer.
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Clearly, for some folks there is a time and place where interceding in a prolonged blue state is appropriate. But I'm not talking here about clinical depresson. I'm simply referring to the habit I've had of wanting to pick and choose which emotions were allowable and considered worthy and which ones I have tried to keep locked permanently away from my heart.
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It's a package deal. The extent to which I shut down my capacity for lonliness, grief or sorrow I also diminish by ability to reach for wonder and joy. I don't need to let myself get stuck in the negative or painful feelings. But I need to be able to fully feel them and acknowledge them in order to move on. Keeping them gagged and squashed silent merely makes them bigger, not less.
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"as I've been more willing to embrace my sadness, anxiety, shame, and so on, my ability to be joyful has really grown. I laugh more because I cry more...I feel more authentic and at peace for letting the whole range of emotions surface."
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YES - that is the lesson. Now my job is to open up to let myself learn.
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1 comment:

Joel said...

Very nicely said.
Thanks, I enjoyed it.
-Joel