Jordan Peterson talks about how you know a friend is a real friend. He says the first mark is that you can tell them bad news and they won’t make you feel stupid or that all your back luck is your own fault. The second mark is that you can tell them good news and they will rejoice with you. They won’t be jealous or make you feel like you don’t deserve it or that they wished it had happened to them instead.
I know people who cannot be excited when someone announces a pregnancy because they long for a child. I know people who don’t want to attend any weddings because they long for marriage. I know people who will not rejoice over your promotion at work because they hate their job.
I have been thinking about this—how we keep space for those we love in the bad times and good. Life is such a mixed bag of emotions and experiences. Our responses to that mixed bag has far more to do with what is happening interiorly than what is happening exteriorly.
These ramblings are mine and mine alone and I have no cred except a lifetime of mixed emotions and learning to come to terms with them. I feel like so many people are scared to embrace the negative emotions. They hurt—hurt like bloody hell. And so we numb. We numb with work or social media or alcohol or ice cream. Because we don’t want to feel the pain, we avoid.
And our spectrum of emotions begins to shrink. Maybe we don’t feel the extreme grief, but we also lose the bliss. The positives start to disappear too. And we exist in a narrow field of just meh. To expand your life, you have to learn to keep space for pain and beauty, realizing that they run on parallel tracks and arrive about the same time.
“Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final. Don’t let yourself lose me. Nearby is the country they call life. You will know it by its seriousness. Give me your hand.” Rilke
Babies and bathwater…
Today is my husband’s birthday.
I wanted to wish him a happy birthday on social media (although he may never see it, I do not know) but I couldn’t find a current picture of him. I had to reach back 8 years to find a picture of when we were happy—ish. Those days have beauty and pain. I would not trade them.
I want to celebrate him. He changed my life. Without the pain of the years we were together, I may have never found my way out of all the self-deception I had conveniently wrapped around myself. I may have never found the immense beauty of the life surrendered, a life beyond my own selfishness.
A friend recently shared with me how when her father was suffering with cancer he promised the Lord he wouldn’t take any opioids in order that he be fully awake and lucid to say yes to God at every moment right up until his passing from this life. That level of beautiful surrender is absolutely unheard of in our culture. It cut me right to my heart because I struggle to surrender to the Divine Will the land of the living.
How many times have you heard the advice to “live in the moment”? This is often said on vacations, on your wedding day, in the days of little children running around barefoot in the sprinkler. People don’t usually say that at funerals or divorce hearings or processing chronic pain. Can you imagine? “Don’t forget to live in the moment…” while you are embracing grief, loss, death, separation, pain, holding your breath and waiting for it to pass. And yet….
Babies and bathwater…
O beautiful soul, hang onto the good. Be in the moment. Let the pain and the goodness pass through you, changing you, and refining you. Feel it all. It’s OK. Let those tears fall if they may. You can pound your fists on the floor and scream at God and He can take it. Feel it, to your depths and then let it go. Laugh. Laugh when the laugh is there, stuck in your throat. Set it free. There is beauty in a thousand unexpected places, often right on the other side of the pain you never wanted to pass through.
Go through. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Happy birthday, Gana. Your existence has forever altered mine. If we make it to heaven may we drag each other along.