If you're going to see the shitty bits, also see the good bits
I realised something powerful this morning and it's this: in living my life every day, and indeed in writing this blog, I strive to avoid chaos and pain (difficult emotions). In my mind, I hold up calm and peace as the holy grail – as if to feel anything other than calm and peace is wrong, verboten, a failing. Yes, certainly a failing.
I grew up feeling this way: to always put on a happy face. To push down emotions in case I offended someone or hurt someone’s feelings or just made life too messy for someone to have to deal with.
And so I have always believed that the only answer is to strive to live in an almost constant state of calm and 'pleasantness', avoiding the painful emotions, avoiding the ‘mess’, avoiding the ‘clutter’ of unfinished business and unanswered questions – and pain.
But now I have come to really see that life is pleasure as well as pain. Life is chaos as well as calm. Life is messy as well as tidy. And we can’t properly see the light without seeing the darkness. And we can’t fully see the pleasure without seeing the pain. And we can’t joyously see the happiness without seeing the sadness. Life is not black and white – it’s so many shades of grey (far more than 50!).
Running from the pain – running from the chaos and calamity and messiness – is not being calm, it’s being afraid. It’s being scared. It’s living in fear.
Accepting the pain, the chaos, the calamity, and the messiness is living in bravery, and faith and love. Or, now that I think about, what Brene Brown calls ‘wholeheartedness’. I’m slowly piecing all these lessons together!
In fact, renowned author and speaker Gabby Bernstein says the first step in any personal transformation is acknowledging the fear. That's what takes us to faith (faith in love/the universe and in a better way to tackle the issue).
So, I am slowly coming to understand that we can’t always be calm and peaceful, any more than we can always be in chaos and pain. We will always experience both. Often in the very same day.
Parenting is abundant with life lessons like this one. Only last night, I saw the first signs of this new realisation of mine emerge when I got a bit cross at the kids during dinner (I have a couple of professional fussy eaters). I went to bed feeling so guilty about getting mad and what I perceived as “ruining” an otherwise lovely day.
And then I gradually came to see that if I am going to look at the shitty bits of my parenting, I also have to look at the good bits. If I am going to feel guilty about what I do “wrong”, I also have to feel proud of what I do well. That lesson again: if I am going to feel the pain, I also have to feel the pleasure, because both show up in the same day, often in the same moment.
And I can’t separate them any more than I can deny them.
This is life, happening all around me. Around all of us.
I can handle the pain more if I also accept the pleasure.
And if it feels like I can’t handle the pain, the darkness, then I can take it within and try to transform it into light – with the help of faith in the brightest light of all: love.
If this rings some bells for you, you might like to read Gabby Bernstein's new book, The universe has your back: transform fear to faith.
Or read A course in miracles made easy: mastering the journey from fear to faith by Alan Cohen. Or wade into the original A course in miracles. Or, if you want more, read any of Dr Wayne Dyer’s work.