Why is it that joy and intense grief so often go together like mac & cheese?Maybe one thing they have in common is change.Joy often comes from change and so does grief.Change is a funny thing.We can’t live without it.From the day we are born we are changing.Right down to the cellular level.Red blood cells have a life of about four months.New things are constantly happening within us.And as much as we might like to remain stagnant at times, we cannot.Life brings twists and turns, bends in the road, and unexpected bumps to move us along.We can wonder what it would be like to live without change, but I’m not sure we can accurately imagine it – maybe like the movie “Groundhog Day”?Anyhow, change is always comin – like a freight train bearing down the tracks.
We are wired to recognize patterns and situations to avoid danger and to conserve energy.Change makes us use energy to learn a new pattern or situation.We are wired for memory.Change makes us consolidate new memories.So now we have to use our energy to see and do something different and we have to store and differentiate between the old and the new experience.And sometimes the difference is not even between what was, but what we imagined and what actually was or is.
So it is painful because it takes our energy and forces memory change.Why is it often accompanied by joy?New things can be exciting.New things can present options and choices.Newness can invite greater space for enjoyment, pleasure, and fulfillment in an area that had been lacking.As the old red blood cells die, new ones take their place.When we let go of an old paradigm, there is room for a more adaptive view to take its’ place – something that’s going to work better.
So, I think we just have to live with it.Joy and grief are inextricably linked.Most of the time we will have one with the other.If we can hold both and go back and forth flexibly and freely, then good for us!Enjoy the joy and grief that are part of life, my friends.
Recently I read “The Myth of Laziness” by Mel Levine, M.D. I appreciated a very important takeaway idea. Sometimes children or adults have a failure or breakdown in the systems that lead to meaningful output or productivity. We may then avoid trying to output or produce again. That avoidance then gets labeled, “lazy”. We may call ourselves lazy or others may identify us as such. Or maybe we have labeled someone else.
Today, perhaps we could practice generosity of spirit and granting the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps we could seek to identify exactly where the breakdown occurs for us or another person and refrain from the use of the label “lazy”. Hopefully we can see ourselves and others as deserving of grace and tools to help us develop our potential.
There is no guarantee that we will live to see tomorrow.Neither is there any guarantee that we won’t live to see tomorrow!So, may the activities, intentions, and experiences we choose today bring us joy, hope, peace, fun, and love right now.And; likewise, may those activities, intentions, and experiences support our having joy, hope, peace, fun, and love tomorrow.
Maybe all is as it should be right now.It is easy to get scared and think that we should have done something differently.It is easy to be scared and think that if only somebody else was different, then things would be right.From that place of thinking things should be different, it is easy to think what if’s.What if I had made that choice?What if I had done this?The possibilities for obsession and regret are endless.Will it help to obsess and regret over what isn’t or hasn’t been?Well, to think those thoughts a little is human.To dwell on them is destructive.What if we could imagine that all is as it should be?What if we could say to ourselves that we really don’t know what would have happened if different choices were made?We don’t know if things might have turned out for the worse.There may be some skill we have learned, some trait we have enhanced, or something we have achieved because things were exactly as they should be.Can we can let go of fear, obsession, and regret and start to move forward from right where we are today?I wonder what good things lay ahead for us when we can let go and trust that all is as it should be.All things are for a season or a time.Winter is for hibernation.Spring is for new growth.If we trust that all is as it should be, we can focus on what we can be learning or enjoying right now.
May each and every one of us be blessed with strength, patience, love, and peace today. May we lay aside useless striving for wealth or power. May we care for one another in a way that affirms humanity and creates connection. May we continue to learn and grow, as a society, toward maturity: that we recognize the destructiveness of “all for me and me against you”. May we grow to understand that care for each other carries a dividend for each of us. And in this way we will be truly powerful and wealthy.
These thoughts were inspired by Noam Chomsky’s “Requiem for the American Dream” on Netflix.
I have plenty of hardship and heartache.I have plenty of doubt and unanswered questions.I see plenty of injustice and plight, and I deeply care about all of that.And yet I am free…I am free because I refuse to be bound to any negative interpretation that involves my life or my past.I am free because I choose to see every challenging, difficult, or grievous situation as an opportunity for growth, deepening, and learning.I am free because; instead of bearing a grudge, I choose to take giant bolt cutters and cut the chain that binds me to the negative parts of the person or situation – sometimes again and again.I am free because I choose love instead of hate.I am free because I choose when, where, and how to give.I am free because I choose to remain open to the good that can come along at any moment, even when I don’t see it coming.I am not always happy, and yet it feels wonderful to know I am free!
People sometimes wonder aloud what it would be like to see the face of God. I think I have an idea of what that would be like. I think I see that when I sit across from people every day who hurt and struggle and are full of love and hope and gratitude. I think I see God in the faces of my vulnerable children. I see God in my friends faces when they tell me about something that is happening in their life – the triumph that comes from tragedy or when we laugh together in a funny moment. I see God when I am able to look at myself in the mirror and feel love instead of hate.I see God when I have wronged someone and they forgive me.I see God when there is a thick fog clinging to the foothills, just as the brilliant rays of light shoot up with the sunrise.I see God when I use my last faithful breath to utter a desperate prayer and receive an answer just minutes or hours later.Maybe it is prideful to say I think I know, but I really think I do, and it’s magnificent!