Wednesday, April 4, 2012

shadow side

After I posted my Lenten fast post, where I talked about the discipline of gratitude on Facebook, I had a couple of comments back from people, about how cheerful and joyful I always am. It got me thinking, because, people, I am not always cheerful and joyful. (Also, I double-checked with my husband and daughter and they confirmed this. There was eye rolling and tentativeness that suggested they were scared this was a trap of sorts.)

I'm going to try to be quite honest here. I think I'm a bundle of contradictions. I do genuinely see the best in people almost all the time, but I'm also deeply scared of rejection. I write to get at the truth but I also try to put my best foot forward. I take great delight in my family, but I also avoid them way too often. I am grateful for seasons and senses -- and actually there's no counter-weight on that one. What comes across as cheerfulness has more than a smidge of anxious energy in it.

I think too of a scene in one of L.M. Montgomery's books where a smitten Gilbert Blythe can't associate sorrow with the vivid, joyful Anne, and the omniscient narrator comments that those who feel the deepest joys also feel sorrow the keenest too. That's me: joyful but also pissed off and cranky. (Although doesn't keenest sorrow sound nicer?)

I hope that the fact I come across as cheerful doesn't mean either that I'm being deceptive about the darker side, or that I come across as shallow. There isn't a lot of training in this world for how to politely express your disgust/anger/grief/anxiety. I also know that I don't like those parts of me very much -- I tend to cloister myself away when I get too far into any of those emotions. I'm trying to learn to live more openly with them but it's socially easier to live with and associate with someone who at least acts with grace. It's also scary to ask for help when you aren't sure help will come.

Last year really challenged my equanimity. I spent a good deal of several months feeling quite sorry for myself, angry, needy, frustrated and helpless. Some people knew that -- and they still loved me. Now things are better but it's made me think about the same question.

I'm not sure that cheerfulness is virtuous anyhow. I look at the readings for Holy Week and I sure don't see a cheerful Jesus. I see anger, fear, frustration, joy, need, sorrow. I see passion -- dark and light, shadow and bright.

So, here's to complicated people. Here's to being able to say I'm not ok when I'm not, and I am when I am. Here's to sucking the marrow out of each day.

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