We Hold These Truths

When it comes to dealing with change, there is a thin line between feeling your feelings and wallowing, and only you can decide where that line is.

We don’t often discuss it but change, even delirious, joyful, “I can’t believe I’m so lucky” change comes with a loss of some sort. It can be the loss of the routine you’ve grown comfortable with. In the case of a new job, you might lose confidence in your knowledge of how to tackle it. The loss could even be the absence of any excuse you previously had to feel sorry for yourself.

With every loss comes grief and that’s when we get into the murky waters of dealing with your feelings. Have you ever said to yourself, “Everything’s going so well? Why aren’t I jumping for joy?” or “Why am I making a mountain out a molehill when I’ve got pretty much everything I want and need?”

It’s confusing to feel bad when all signs point to dancing in the street as the appropriate response and when we don’t feel the way we are “supposed to,” we often feel guilty.

Conversely, when something tragic happens and society tells you the appropriate response is to wear black and cry non-stop, it seems almost sacrilegious to have moments of happiness.

When I was 17 years old, my best friend Adele died. Those of us who were her closest friends cried and cried and finally, on the second day after her death, someone very wise in the group suggested we go for pizza. At the restaurant, we were talking about fun times we’d had with Adele and we were laughing at the memories. One of our classmates walked over to our table, a look of disgust on his face and snarled, “How can you be laughing and eating pizza when Adele is dead? I thought you were her friends!”

In his mind, we had broken a cardinal rule—when someone dies, your spirit must die with them, at least for an appropriate time of mourning.

Instead of crying over our loss, we had begun to celebrate Adele’s life. This was uncomfortable for our well-meaning classmate and I’m afraid he represents the majority opinion.

Because we care more about what people might think than our own well-being, we often crush moments of happiness that occur in the midst of sadness in order to be socially acceptable. We deliberately choose to focus on something that will pull us back into the sorrow.

Country Western ballads anyone?

If you haven’t noticed, my columns are mostly written as advice to myself when I need it the most. They are about the human experience and these days I feel more nakedly human than usual.

My boyfriend and I have parted and I’ve been in pain for the last few weeks and observing how I handle it. When do I give in to the sorrow and have a good cry? When are there opportunities to feel better that I callously ignore so I can wallow? Is it okay to dance with joy when your heart is broken?

There are moments when I am so sad I can barely breathe. And then there are the moments, reminiscent of the pizza parlor experience, when I get to laugh at the happy memories.

The Law of Attraction dictates that you attract more of what you focus on and focus is always a choice. It doesn’t feel like a choice when you’re in pain; it feels like it’s being done to you because we don’t want to take responsibility; we’d rather wallow.

I’m aware that no one or nothing can make me think thoughts without my cooperation. Wallowing is a strong point of focus that will not produce what I want which is to feel better.

It all boils down to the ability to hold two opposing truths: I am deeply sad and I have an incredible life that, on balance, is filled with joy.

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