“She was a genius of sadness, immersing herself in it, separating its numerous strands, appreciating its subtle nuances. She was a prism through which sadness could be divided into its infinite spectrum.” ― Jonathan Safran Foer
I come from a long line of family who wholeheartedly embraced sadness.
Even at the tender age of eight, I packed a bag, put on my winter jacket, and rode my Huffy bike a half a mile down Interstate 219, determined to run (or bike) away. I turned around solely because I looked to my left and saw concrete burial vaults. That scared the hell out of me, so I turned around and off I went.
I felt lost. Lonely. Confused. I felt like a dreary, cold winter day aching for a few rays of sunshine.
I remember one night my first year in college feeling so depressed I trudged up this enormous hill to a practice football field. I sat there on the cold, damp grass pondering the reasons why I could possibly feel so rotten inside. I screamed questions and obscenities at the sky that night at what I thought to be God. I don’t remember exactly what I screamed, but it was probably something like this:
“WTF God? Is this the way life is supposed to be? Why the hell do I feel so empty, confused, and utterly alone? What am I doing? What am I supposed to be doing? Do you care? Are you there? God????”
Lots of us scream at God or Source or whatever it is you believe is orchestrating the heavens every once in a while. Why do you think that is?
I believe it is because life doesn’t go as we planned. Most of us grew up with thoughts and visions about how awesome life was going to be and we had no idea the amount of pain that awaited us at various intervals along the way. We didn’t think people would say and do things to hurt us, we thought cancer only happened to old people, we weren’t prepared to be victims, we believed everything would just be alright. We were wrong.
Pain happens. We don’t like it, but pain is inevitable. It is We don’t like pain. In fact, we do just about anything to avoid pain.
We drink. We take pills. We numb out with television or the computer. We have sex. We reach for approval from others. We run. We lie. We buy shit we don’t need. We construct a fortified wall and vow no one else is going to get in.
We smile and hope no one will look directly into our eyes for fear of seeing our exhaustion, fear, and apathy.
Same story, different people
I understand that not everyone’s story is full of pain and suffering. Life doesn’t happen the same for everyone and that’s fine. Not everyone wrestles with such a roller coaster ride of negative emotions either. There is a spectrum, but one thing is for sure:
Everyone encounters pain and has a choice to stuff that pain or face it, process it, and let it do its work.
I’ve noticed that stories get better as they near the climax. The tension builds and builds and I find myself anxiously anticipating something exciting. I’m on the edge of my seat with expectancy surging in my veins and my heart racing like crazy. It sort of reminds me of life. Life doesn’t necessarily reach a climax, but tension sure can build and wane all throughout the twists and turns of life. Struggles and trying times have their way of making us make some changes internally, which is a good thing.
Darkness can turn into light.
Sadness can make way for authentic joy.
The Phoenix Bird
I love the story of the phoenix bird that arose out of Greek mythology. It has been taught that the phoenix bird is a fiery bird that lives 500 to 1000 years and when it is getting near to death, it gathers a bunch of twigs and sets them- and itself- on fire. The phoenix burns to ashes, but does not stay there. No, the phoenix is then reborn into a new bird- it obtains new life- and sings a beautiful song.
Have you ever been driving on the highway and “zoned out” for a time and all of a sudden you “come to” and you’re like “Ah darn, I missed my exit!” or “How did I get this far? I don’t remember driving the past 10 miles?” You were travelling, but you were unaware of your present moments because you were off in deep thought about various things.
Our successes in life are not measured by how far we have traveled, but by the lessons learned along our journey. It is through pain and suffering that we can get a grasp on compassion, and use that compassion to help others in the world who are in pain and suffering as well.
Stop the grieving.
We can become addicted to grief. We can learn to love the dance with the darkness, the pain, the foggy shadow. Grief is completely normal when we are facing a loss. Feel it. Embrace it. Then let it go. But sooner rather than later, let it go. Stop the grieving.
No matter what your life has been like, no matter how much pain and suffering you have been through, no matter what- go today to get your twigs together to throw one heck of a Phoenix bonfire. I’m serious.
Get out there and gather some twigs or logs for a bonfire and as you lay each piece down in a pile, name each one.
Say, “This twig represents regret. Goodbye regret.
This twig represents greed. Burn in hell greed.
This twig represents fear. In ashes you die, fear!
This twig represents shame. Our journey together ends today, shame”
And so on. Build your twig pile being mindful that you are purposefully torching the crap you have been clinging to. The things that no longer serve you. The negativity that has copped a squat right between your ears for far too long. You’ve learned the lessons, now let the darkness go.
Now it is time to torch the pile. This is a sacred moment. This is between you and God. Just before doing so, close your eyes and take a deep breath. Invoke God, Jesus, Spirit, and your angels to come close.
Now, light the fire and let it all go. Watch it rise to the heavens! Let the doubts, sadness, fears just burn away honey. Breathe a deep sigh of relief and smile. Now rejoice and raise your hands to the Lord! (But the Lord is within you, darling. Just sayin’.)
God doesn’t want you full of “crap”. .Letting go feels so good. It’s something we ought to do more often.