On the morning of my birthday, I laced up my shoes and headed out for a hike.
The sun was warm and the air was crisp and as I was climbing, I became filled with an overwhelming gratitude. It was powerful and unexpected and brought me to tears. I had to steady myself as waves of appreciation came rolling in.
I felt so honored to be the mother of my children; honored to have the home, family, friends and work I love; honored for the years I shared with my husband; honored to be healthy and able to climb a mountain.
I drove home feeling elated and ready for the festivities to begin and again was hit by a powerful emotion. Loneliness. Deep, deep loneliness.
What the heck happened? How do you go from 10 on the gratitude scale to a big fat zero within minutes? How do you open to such joy and then such sorrow?
When you fully allow your heart to crack open to the immense beauty of your life, it cracks it open to all of it. All of it.
I connected to something big on that mountain and it short-circuited my panel and blew out the safety valves! It was raining emotional cats and dogs and there was no umbrella in sight.
Emotions that had been sitting quietly in the queue suddenly had access to me. I’d kicked the door open and rebel forces came rushing in. Emptiness, fear, heartache, darkness. I stared at the unruly mob with amazement. Who invited them?! Today was my birthday and they weren’t even wearing party hats!
My first instinct was to run some kind of interference or ask for a group hug from my impressive cheese assortment, but then I remembered to stop myself from doing that knee jerk thing.
I took a step back.
In the eye of the storm.
Until it wore itself out.
It didn’t take long for the feelings to settle and I felt relatively calm and unharmed.
Opening your heart feels amazing when you’ve got fluffy, cotton candy dreams surrounding you, but not so much when loneliness marches in with a chip on its shoulder. That crazy broad makes you want to close up shop and nail the door shut, but if you run away the second those shaky feelings arise, you reinforce the voice in your head that says “I’m not okay.” “This is not okay.”
But it is okay. It’s more than okay. It’s important to allow the storm to pass through you so you don’t miss the rainbow on the other side!
You have to stay open to all of it, if you’re going to experience the full spectrum of beauty and light. You can’t numb yourself one minute and then feel to the depths of your soul the next. There isn’t a swinging door. If your heart’s closed sixty percent to the pain, it’s closed sixty percent to the joy, too. I’ve checked the math.
Sometimes, we’re hesitant to fully allow that “over the moon” kind of happiness because we’re afraid it could be taken away. We’re afraid that if we truly open up and let go, things could go terribly wrong, but we must.
You can’t stand cautiously at the door if you want to feel the glorious warmth of the sunshine. You have to walk boldly out in the open to bathe in its rays… and when it does disappear from the sky for the night, you don’t fear the darkness, because you know nothing’s lost. It will rise again.
A passionate life is vulnerable. That lesson was my gift this year. The emotional high and low brought me full circle to everything I’ve been through, and though sometimes it feels chaotic and indefinable when I look at the random pieces, it becomes breathtakingly beautiful when I’m on the mountain top and can see the big picture.
Joy isn’t shiny, perfect and whole. It’s sometimes tattered and full of tears… but it’s always inclusive and always eager for more. Let it in. Every last bit.
Joy and Loneliness walked into the party… hand in hand. Who knew?