On Joy and Sorrow

As we all struggle to make sense of the horrible events in Connecticut last week, I live in hope that we can change. That we as humans can evolve enough to do what is needed to insure these tragedies don’t persist. I hope that we can create laws that keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, that we can find and help the mentally ill before they ever consider using a gun, and that all people can be safe and thrive in their communities.

This is not to say sorrow will not exist for it is a part of our human experience. I just hope that the sorrows that teach us can be smaller. A while back I wrote about this very thing. Today my hopes are for smaller sorrows that lead to joy.

“To find joy in another’s joy, that is the secret of happiness.”

— George Bernanos

When I was a child I spent a lot of energy on being unique. I was voted class clown in my Senior year in high school and this was the culmination of a whole bunch of crazy behavior. To get a laugh from other students, I squirted water guns at teachers, made pretend announcements over loud speakers, wore pajamas on field trips, and hundreds of other things I’ve blocked out by now! Thankfully a lot of this energy was harnessed into student activities, plays, yearbook editing, cross country running so I manage to get out of school without a criminal record!

All of my childhood shenanigans were really just a way to keep from getting hurt. If I acted like a happy clown then you wouldn’t find out that I was actually hurt when my 16 year old crush dated my sister instead of me, or that I was upset when I didn’t get asked to the prom. Being “unique” shielded me from dealing with a lot of emotions.

“Joy and Sorrow” ~Zhong-Yang Huang

Thankfully for me life keeps on coming, and in time I got over this and I am now able to dive head first into all of the emotions the human experience has to offer. What I didn’t understand when I was younger is that joy’s opposite is actually an access to the very things I was seeking. In deflecting sorrow I was also deeply hindering my experience of joy.

The two require each other.

On Joy and Sorrow

From The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.And how else can it be?The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, “Joy is greater thar sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”But I say unto you, they are inseparable.Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

Having a child is what gave this access to me. The heartbreaking thought that anything might happen to my precious girl has really given me full access to the joy of having her in my life. Before having a child I was not a very emotional person. Now there are commercials that can make me cry.

My father died several years before my daughter’s birth and I did not cry at that time. I was the steady rock that shepherded my family through the difficult situation. I told myself that because he died after suffering long from illness that it was all for the best. Somehow, at least I had the presence of mind to ask him to share some of his thoughts on life, which he hand wrote the answers to in a scrapbook I made with photos from his life. I cherish this book now even if it pains me to realize I never allowed myself to fully be present while my father was alive. He wrote his biggest regret was that his children didn’t come to him for advice. My fear of disappointing him is what kept me away. Oh how I wish I had taken the chance now!

So chances I will take. Difficult conversations will be had. Sorrow will not be feared. I intend to live the rest of my life with access to the depths of joy available. How about you?

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