We spend most of our lives buying into the myth of an either/or world. That often leads us astray, especially when it comes to our sense of self and well-being. The truth is we’re never one thing, we’re many things at once: content AND restless; serene AND outraged; inspired AND heartbroken.
For the larger world, this has been a time of great suffering. COVID, George Floyd, the January 6thinsurrection, lines at food banks that go on for miles. What right do any of us have to actually be happy?
We have every right. In fact when we are in a positive mental state we are more present, more creative, and more available to usefully address the chaos of the world. But you can take it too far. I kind of hate the term ‘toxic positivity,’ but it is a thing, where you deliberately put on blinders to block out the bad parts.
Jennifer Garvey Berger, whom I look up to as a mentor, wrote a (typically) beautiful piece about the essential ‘ANDness’ of our condition. She was ruminating on her recent exploration of gratitude as a daily practice and the inevitable guilt that crept in reminding her that she might be well, but all is far from well around her. She writes:
“the thing that I am trying to (re)learn in this quiet season on the cusp of spring is that no matter what I use as a weapon against difficulty, difficulty remains. Any practice I create to diminish my connection to the difficulty itself becomes a twisted thing in my hands, stabbing where it should soothe, hiding where it should illuminate. Instead, I am coming to note that the sense of difficulty itself is a gift.”
When we embrace our both/and reality, we see things more as they really are, and we fully embody our HappySadness, with all of its gifts. Life is a maze of polarities. Dive in.