Like most people, I prefer happy paths. I don’t seek out grief or sadness.
But, sometimes grief ends up spurring joy, and making us rich in what matters.
In my 30’s, I made ruinous spending choices that led to a bankruptcy. I felt wrenching shame. Defaulting on my debts made me feel that I barely deserved to live. But that bankruptcy forced me to learn a disciplined approach to spending, saving and earning. Today my husband and I are well off, and fully prepared to retire when we choose to. Having no money problems is a joyful thing. It lets us become givers of our time and our money to things greater than ourselves. The bankruptcy hurt like hell, but taught me well.
Climate change (global warming) makes me sad. I would definitely rather avoid this topic, in both my writing and my life. I see great suffering ahead for our world (it’s already started). But when I step forward, speak up and do what I can about climate change rather than avoid it, I find myself in a centered state of joy.
Being with my mother in the weeks before she died in 2011 was one of the saddest times in my life. She had been bedridden for years with Parkinson’s disease, and I felt her pain. I felt guilty for my own physical health, for being able to run every afternoon on nature trails (Mom loved nature, like me).
But paradoxically, the season of my mother’s passing is one of the happiest memories of my life. I got to be incredibly close to her, and to support her in going back to the light. I experienced the most loving, supportive hospitality of my life from my friends Kelly and Fred Reed. I spoke and sang at Mom’s memorial service, and reconnected with dear friends from long ago. I traveled to new depths of soulfulness, both then and in the months of grieving that followed. An important friend from 1978 resurfaced with a condolence note. I wouldn’t change any of what happened.
We naturally prefer happy, easy paths. We instinctively shun grief and sadness. But if we let it, sadness can often morph into joy and make us rich in what matters most.
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