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The heavy and the light

Some things in our world are hard and heavy.

The pandemic alone has caused a weariness that has rippled it’s way around the globe, and is felt by us all. Then there are wars, poverty, violence, climate change and general unrest. We do not have to look far to witness pain and suffering.

Couple this with the hard seasons we each experience in our own lives at different times and it can all feel hefty, overwhelming and seemingly desolate.

A moment of joy can be hard to hold during tough times and even more difficult to reach for and find. American researcher, storyteller and bestselling author Bren√© Brown has cited joy as ‘the most vulnerable emotion we experience.
As vulnerable as it is regardless of the circumstances, we often don’t feel it’s OK to hold when there is so much pain and suffering around us and potentially within us.

‘Who am I to feel this moment of joy as…

…I watch my children laugh together after dinner when there are mothers in the Ukraine sheltering their children in subways hoping they make it through the night?’

‘Who am I to feel this moment of joy as…

…the sand dances beneath me as the waves lap at my feet, and the sun shines brilliantly in the clear blue sky above while there are people living in extreme poverty, many dying and unable to move?’

In our awareness of this pain and suffering within our world it is normal for us to feel guilty when experiencing moments of joy. Thoughts like ‘but I should be so sad‘ and ‘It’s not OK for me to feel this way when…’ promptly arrive at the sudden onset of a moment of joy.

This is also true for those who grieve, particularly when grief is ‘fresh’ to experience a moment of joy only to have it chased down by guilt. ‘It’s not OK for me to feel this way when I am so heartbroken and deeply miss…

Here are a couple of things to consider:
We can hold more than one emotion.

When you experience a moment of joy that doesn’t mean you are no longer sorrowful or mourning the loss of loved ones, the awareness of disturbing events close to home or in other countries around the world, the level of certainty you had grown accustomed to, or the many other things that cause us concern and heartbreak.

We can hold more than one emotion so enjoy and savour the reprieve that moment of joy offers and hold it as we need it to keep going.
We can feel all the things.

‘Joy blocking’ aids no one.¬†

‘Joy blocking’ by not allowing yourself to feel or hold the moments of joy doesn’t help those in suffering, regardless of whether it is your own pain or that of others.

For example if I withhold the moment of joy I feel while watching my children laugh together that does not aid the Ukrainian mother who desperately shelters her children from danger nor does it erase my awareness of this.

‘Joy blocking’ only serves to impede our ability to be a light for others, to replenish our energy so we can better support ourselves and others, to be reminded of the good that still exists.

During hard times, when it appears that pain and suffering abound what we need more of is to be the light and see the light of others. Joy enables us to be in a better position to serve, to shine our lights and make a positive difference.

So if you need permission to feel that moment of joy despite your own circumstances or that of those around you, here it is.

It is more than OK for you to feel joy, in fact it is necessary. You need it, we need it, and our world does too.

Mike Labrum