The Vulnerability of Being Happy
This summer has been pretty damned awesome. Positively chock full of blessings and goodness for myself and for my loved ones. Dreams come true. Ordinary miracles. Laughter. Smooth and delightfully easy sailing.
Sure, there have been some hard things, but they have been far, far outweighed by the blow-my-heart-open good things.
So many good things all at once that I feel scared.
“I can’t have all of these things at once!” my mind protests.
And yet, I can. Because, in fact, I do.
It’s a curious realization, really. One that I can so clearly feel in my body—yes, it is true, these things actually DO exist all at the same time in my life. I can feel the tendency to want to grasp at them like hell, push them away with all the fierceness I can muster, or stay really small and quiet so I don’t upset anything or anyone in this oh-so-lovely balance.
But what’s so curious is that I can’t really feel the joy. Sure, there are moments of leaping around like a crazed kangaroo, but mostly I feel the undertow of fear thoughts associated with this great wave of joy. In my mind’s eye I see this wave crashing down like a giant shit storm of a tsunami, washing away the house and my relationships and my work and all the external things that present me with so much joy.
All that loss would feel unbearable. And familiar. I’ve been there before: I lived through the destruction of my life as I knew it through divorce, and then all those years after when I felt so lost, scared, sick, angry, alone, and shut down. And all of that bookended with my bankruptcy last year. I don't want to ever go through those things again if I can help it.
I finally just sat down today to face all of these things that I am so terrified will happen again if this joy ride of a wave I’m on now crashed. I felt the awfulness of the most awful moments from the last ten years of my life. That lasted about one searing moment before I felt a sudden and unexpected flood of love.
It was during those years that I learned how to love myself, how to take care of myself. I discovered my connection to Spirit and to other human beings in a way I had never known. I followed the unfolding of work that I was truly passionate about, and learned the skills (and gained the trust) necessary to craft a life that I feel at home in.
It turned out that amidst all that awfulness was a surprise beauty and perfection.
It’s a hard thing to talk about without sounding froo froo and Pollyanna. But, by God, it’s true. This wave could come crashing down again, and if it did, I’d have love and beauty and perfection along with all the pain. Even more than that—it’s possible that it might not even be painful in the same way it was before.
So why not have my joy now? Why not dismiss the guilt I have around privilege and the fear I have around some imaginary future suffering and just drop in to appreciating how good life is in this moment?
I’ve gotten good at knowing when I have to go sit and face my feelings because under the surface I’m scared or angry or uncomfortable in some way. Now it’s time to practice realizing that underneath the surface I feel joyful and then choose to go sit with that. “Hmmm, I’m feeling really good right now. I think I’ll go sit.” That would be revolutionary.
Because all that work of feeling the hard, shitty stuff in the first place was in service of having joy and love. So why not feel the joy and love when it is actually there?
Why not recognize that my head isn’t wise enough to learn from my experience: no matter how much I know that it really is ok to experience pain, my mind is going to tell me it’s not ok to feel the joy I have now because I fear one day I won’t feel that way. My mind is going to be stubborn and hold tight to its karmic tendencies and fearful nature. That’s what minds do.
But minds also get to choose what they buy into. Pain or joy. Suffering or celebration. Despair or delight.
I’m not saying don’t give attention to pain, suffering or despair when it’s there. I’m saying don’t make it up when it isn’t. Fear is different than a fearful thought. Pain is different than the anticipation of pain. And there’s already enough damned suffering in the world.
So why not just celebrate the hell out of your joy when it’s what is real?