Joy alongside sorrow

‘I saw that there was an ocean of darkness and death, but an
infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness.’ 

George Fox in his journal, 1647

I’ve been leaning heavily on these words over the past few
weeks – over the whole of February really.
This last month has had some truly great moments, both personally (a fun
weekend away with old friends, my partner making a Bakewell tart) and
professionally (did
you see my announcement about the event on dressing with less that I’m hosting
with Courtney Carver?!).
At the same
time it has been emotionally tough going.
Relentless is the word that keeps coming up when journalling – life simply
feels relentless.  

I’m like the boy who kept getting
battered on the obstacle course
, unable to dodge what keeps coming my way.  Moreover it seems there’s no way out of this.  Sometimes it is just how life is: stuff keeps
happening and you have to deal with it, however bruised you might feel.  I suppose I could stay in bed with the duvet
over my head but in the longer term that’s not healthy, nor is it how I want to
respond.  I want to show up as best I can
in my life, which includes trying to fulfil my responsibilities (even those
that are unspoken) when times are tough.

I know I’m not alone in feeling like this.  I know there are others who likewise feel
compelled to live this way, showing up rather than opting out wherever they
can.  I also know that we struggle with
living and being this way.

This kind of showing up is not a one-off discrete task.  It’s not an achievement which we can tick off
as done.  Rather it is an ongoing
process.  It also a process in which we
have little, if any, control over the context.
We don’t choose who dies or needs caring for or what dates some events
happen on.  We just have to respond.

We can, however, support ourselves through the most trying
moments.  We can seek out comfort and
care to sustain us even when our focus by necessity turns to the needs of
others.  This is not only desirable but
essential – the classic ‘Fit your own oxygen mask first’ analogy.

I wrote about self-care a few times last year (once,
twice,
the third
time
).  Yet there’s something else at
work right now: not just needing to ensure the basics, but a desire to feel joy
alongside the sorrows – to go beyond either/or and to live in a place of
both/and.

How do we do this?  

My response to this urge for joy alongside sorrow has been
to look to the natural world.  I’ve
bought daffodils for the house and tended the cyclamen on my desk.  I’ve second glanced at the snowdrops on
roadside and paused by the crocuses at the front door.  I’ve given thanks for the lighter mornings
and the gradually lengthening days.  I’ve
stood at the window enjoying the bright sunshine streaming in and been aware of
the increase in birdsong.

Spring is coming,
grows the whisper.  New life.  Hope.

At other times of the year, and in other places around the
globe, the natural world will communicate different messages, and maybe not
always so positive.  But right now, in
this corner of the earth, the natural world offers huge comfort and fills my
heart with joy.

And it does this without me having to do anything.  Nay, I cannot do anything.  I have no control over nature, just as I have
little or no influence over other happenings in my life.  Nature encourages me to accept, to loosen my resistance,
to embrace what is.  

To embrace what is…Winter followed by spring, night after
day, sorrow alongside joy, an ocean of darkness and death but an infinite ocean
of light and love too.

May you also find joy alongside sorrow in the week ahead.  

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