Joy and Pain. Side by Side.

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“Choosing to nurture joy does not mean turning a blind eye to pain or difficulty or injustice. It means holding positive possibilities while looking deeply into pain. Deep truth about what is and recognizing joy can exist side by side.” ~Circle Forward

I read those words and I was reminded of the phrase finding joy in the mess. And then I was reminded of the times in my life when there wasn’t much to be joyful for, yet, somehow opportunities to choose a moment of pure joy would sneak in, despite the current state of messiness. A sudden eruption of pee-your pants laughter in the depths of unfathomable grief, a beautiful ray of sun appearing from the clouds when all hope seemed lost, a heartfelt hug from a dear friend in a moment of despair. Life-saving snippets of joy in the midst of struggle. Joy and pain. Side by side. How can we know one without the other? Kind of a mind blow, right? Always the paradox. Always the struggle. How can they co-exist? Yet . . . how can they not?

Choosing to find joy in the midst of difficulty is one of the most courageous acts a person can take–although we rarely give ourselves permission to do so. What if, in the midst of your struggles, no matter how big or small, you gave yourself permission to choose joy for just one day, or for one hour, or for even one minute or one second? It’s SO okay to take a break from your pain. Choosing to nurture joy does not dismiss or diminish our hurts, but instead creates space for hope to seep in. And with hope, all things are possible.

Let yourself choose joy and then nurture it. Let it live side by side with your sorrows. Let hope create the space.

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2014: The year of the dance

“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different…” – C.S. Lewis

A friend of mine posted these words on her Facebook page yesterday. The words struck me. I couldn’t help but think how absolutely perfect this powerful quote was as we close out the old year and welcome a new one.

As I then began to reflect on 2014, I thought about how I don’t really feel any different that I did a year ago. Except, that I do. I KNOW that I am a different person. You cannot go through a year of dancing and not emerge a different soul. It’s impossible. Even though I am sitting on the same sofa, probably in the same jammies, doing the same thing I did last January 1, my life is so completely different now that it would take days to explain. For me, 2014 was the year of the dance–the one of joy and grief. Old paths intersecting with new ones as the journey of life danced on. . .  whether I was ready for it or not.

As I was reflecting, I remembered a blog post, (one of way too many that I had started and never finished in 2014) one that sheds some light on the dance.

It is like a dance really. . .

The one of joy and grief.

Some days, it’s like a lively Irish jig–the back and forth of emotions moving as quickly as a river dancers feet. Joy and grief simultaneously morph into something so mind-blowing that I have yet to find the words to adequately describe.

Then some days, the dance, well, it’s more like a graceful waltz. Joy and grief moving together as beautifully as they possibly could given the circumstances that brought these two emotions together in the first place.

And still other days, it’s like the mosh pit of a punk rock concert. Out of control and coming at you full force, like the beat of a thousand drums pounding at you until you just want to run away forever. But you can’t. You can’t escape a mosh pit. You are stuck until music ends.

And that’s the dance of joy and grief.

When you are missing people who you loved like crazy, the dance is always there.

But, life goes on–it doesn’t stop because we are grieving. Joyful moments intersecting with painful ones. One unable to exist without the other. And just as you are beginning to find a familiar groove, a new dance suddenly begins. Jigging, waltzing, moshing. The dance is there waiting to remind you that even though life is good–so very good-there is a hole in your heart so big that it’s impossible to fill. Those days are mosh pit days. And I am not a fan.

And so it went. And so it goes. Raw becomes real. As the numbness of the first year after loss began to fade, year two slowly became a dance. A very painful one. My old life constantly intersecting with the new. Well worn paths and new ones forged–colliding, over and over and over. The dance became one of clinging ever so tightly while slowly letting go–like you are hanging onto the edge of a cliff and one by one your fingers are slowly slipping. . .

Loving.

Living.

Growing.

Healing.

Praying.

Looking back.

Moving forward.

Dancing.

It’s almost like a cha-cha now.

And instead of dancing in the rain. . .

I dance through tears–the ones of joy and grief.

Somewhere along the line, I learned that you make the choice to stay and dance or you choose to leave the party. You choose to jig, waltz, and cha-cha through the ups and downs of life, or you choose to stay stuck in the mosh pit, even after the music has ended and the crowd has gone home.

I choose to stay and dance–sometimes, like no one is watching.

And I’m glad.

Because even though the dance is exhausting, and painful, and messy, it’s also beautiful and joyous, and worth every crazy, aching moment.

To all of my friends and family that have danced with me in 2014. . .

I thank you and I love you.

Good-bye 2014 and hello 2015.

I can only imagine the new dance steps I will learn.

Happy New Year to all.

May 2015 be all that you hope it to be.

A little bit of 2014
A little bit of 2014. There are many, many more photos I’d like to put in here but ran out of room. Life is good. Live it. Love it. And don’t forget to dance.

Four simple truths about gratitude

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I’m resisting the urge to write volumes on the subject.

Because I could.

It’s that powerful.

It’s that game-changing.

It’s that essential. . .

To all that’s good in life.

But, I promise to keep it short and sweet.

Because the truths speak for themselves. . .

Four simple truths about gratitude

  1. Gratitude is a choice. Living life with a grateful heart doesn’t always just happen–especially when life sucks. You may have to choose it-over and over and over again–even if it hurts, even if it doesn’t make sense. Because eventually, it will make sense. It will become part of your DNA. You’ll wonder how you could breathe without it.
  2. Gratitude is self-pity’s kryptonite. Try feeling sorry for yourself and being truly grateful at the same time. It simply cannot be done. I know this because I’ve tried. More than once. And I’ve failed. Every. Single. Time.
  3. A joyous life is absolutely impossible without gratitude. So is a peaceful one, or a content one, or a loving one, or a courageous one, or an abundant one. . . And you get the picture.
  4. Practicing gratitude will save your life. I know this because it’s saved mine.

So what is stopping you,

Despite where your life may be at this moment,

From living your best life?

The one that includes you with a grateful heart. . . and a joyous soul.

As somebody once said, “There is always, always, always something to be grateful for.”

And it’s true.

One thousand million percent true.

There IS always a reason to be grateful.

Besides, like I said. . .

Gratitude will save your life.

Now go ahead. . .

You go be grateful!

What are you waiting for?

Staying present when life gets crazy

Hello Blog, it has been a while. . .

Not the first time I’ve written those words on these pages for the world to see and probably won’t be the last. Luckily I don’t blog for a living. Whew!

My hiatus from the blogosphere started unintentionally, of course. Then one day, I realized that it had been a while since I had written. By then I had so many things on my mind to write that I didn’t know where to begin.

So, I didn’t.

Then, the pile in my mind of things to write got bigger and bigger.

And I became a little lot overwhelmed.

So, I stopped. . .

And I wondered why I was struggling to create space in my life for something that I love to do?

Then, I realized. . .

Sometimes life comes at us so fast that we barely have time to breathe. It’s in those crazy times that we need to just hang on and stay present so we don’t miss a thing.

So, I did. . .

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And a funny thing happened when I simply stayed present–in the midst of this crazy, amazing, beautiful, chaotic time–space had been created for awakening, change, and growth in my life. The uncomfortableness I wrote about a couple of months ago? Yeah, well, it settled in, created some angst, then finally allowed me to follow my heart and to make some tough changes. Even though some things have been messy, I have had faith all along that I am heading in the right direction. After all, God has yet to lead me astray.

Staying present throughout the insanity of the last few months has also allowed me to fully embrace the life I have before me and the person I have become. Life is SO completely different than I could have ever imagined it could be. As much as I have tried to compartmentalize my life, especially when it comes to writing about it, I can’t. Life for me isn’t about family, or friends, or faith, or grief, or joy, or loss, or running, or serving, or weight loss, or healing, or even about orphans in Uganda. My life is about ALL of those beautiful things wrapped into one. Even though there are parts of my life I would have never chosen, I couldn’t be more grateful for the beauty that has risen from the ashes. I have come to fully understand that life is truly what we choose to make it. We can’t change what happened a second ago, let alone yesterday, and we surely cannot, with any sort of certainty, know what the future has in store for us. We only have now. So, take a deep breath, stay present, and hang on for the glorious ride. You won’t want to miss one crazy, amazing, beautiful, messy, awesome moment of this incredible life.

 

 

The healing journey

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“The journey of healing is often painful. It requires much effort and endurance. . . It is hard work, but along the way we learn that there is a place in the journey where we are able to celebrate. This celebration comes from knowing that all of the effort is worth it.  It is from this place that we can begin to feel hope and we can begin to glimpse joy. We are no longer driven by desperation but by determination.”  ~ adapted from A Healing Celebration

 

Lean into it. . .

Lean into it.

When that message came to me twice the other day– I figured I better listen.

The first time I heard those words I was listening to Dr. Brene Brown speak. (If you haven’t heard her message, STOP READING THIS NOW and Google her. Then listen whole-heartedly to what she has to say. It will change your life in ways you can’t imagine. Trust me on this one.) Later on that day, I received the following message in an email series that I am currently subscribed to called 40 Days of Deep Wisdom by Erica Staab. It’s pretty powerful. . .

In life, we think the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem.  The real truth is that things really don’t get solved. The come together for a time, then fall back apart. Then they come together again, and fall apart again. It’s just like that.

Personal discovery and growth come from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy. 

Suffering comes from wishing things were different. Misery is self-inflicted, when we are expecting the “ideal” over the “actual,” or needing things (or people, or places) to be different for us so we can then be happy.

Let the hard things in life break you. Let them effect you. Let them change you. Let these hard moments inform you. Let this pain be your teacher. The experiences of your life are trying to tell you something about yourself. Don’t cop-out on that. Don’t run away and hide under your covers. Lean into it.

What is the lesson in this wind? What is this storm trying to tell you? What will you learn if you face it with courage?  With full honesty and-– lean into it.

~Pima Chodron

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The harsh beauty of this poem stunned me for a moment, then I wept.

Then I read it again.

And I cried some more.

“Let the hard things in life break you.” 

Broken? More like shattered.

“Let this pain be your teacher.”

Lord knows, I’m a straight A student.

“There must be room for all of this to happen.”

My soul has grown exponentially throughout my lifetime,

constantly making room for the pain that has broken me,

and the joy,

and the love,

and the gratitude,

that have restored me.

Coming together and falling apart,

over and over,

sometimes almost rhythmically,

like waves crashing into the shore.

Unfortunately, the storms of life are inevitable.

Sometimes they are a like a soft summer rain,

and other times,

the storms are like a hurricane.

The harsh but beautiful reality is that you have a choice. . .

to run for shelter, or to dance in the rain.

It’s so hard, sometimes, to make that choice.

But today?

I choose to dance. . .

with courage and with love,

sometimes while dangling only from the heartstrings of hope.

All the while praying for the storm to pass.

Today,

I will choose. . .

to let my soul grow,

to let my pain rest,

and to open my heart to the whisper of the wind.

Today. . .

I will lean into it.