Ripples #1171: Sweetness Amid Sorrow

Ripples #1171: Sweetness Amid Sorrow
Nov 1, 2021


How do we stay alive to the sweetness of the world, while staying present to the heartache?
-Rabbi Julia Watts-Belser, shared by Emma in Lincoln, NE


How does one come to a confident and positive view that is not naive, given the state of the world? By walking through one’s own anger and despair and emerging into serenity.
—James Thornton, shared by Isaac in Sedona, AZ


As we get ready to dive into another set of holidays amid the pandemic, I’m hearing from weary souls who aren’t sure how to summon their usual gleeful holiday spirit. Some aren’t even sure they want to.

One reason that happiness and hopefulness can seem elusive in hard times is that we think we have to choose between solemnly recognizing the heaviness that surrounds us OR painting on a smile while completely ignoring the grim reality of the times we’re living in.

It’s not always easy to grapple with the polarity between happiness and heartache, and it’s often downright uncomfortable. Still, it is possible and it can be useful. It can even help us grow. Several resources have helped me explore the meaning and opportunity in this polarity:

  • Richard Rohr writes about bright sadness and sober happiness in his book Falling Upward.
  • Scott Barry Kaufman recently suggested tragic optimism is a more realistic and ultimately healthier alternative to toxic positivity.
  • Brian Treanor uses the term melancholic joy to help us shift from either/or to both/and thinking when it comes to seeing the good and bad that inevitably co-exist in our wonderful, awful world.

If you want help with all of this, I’m assembling a few ideas and strategies that I’ll be sharing in a Zoomy Zoom called Hope for the Holidays: Tips on Gratitude, Grace & Grit that I’ll present twice: Tue, Nov 16 at 7pm eastern (6c/5p/4c), and again on Wed, Nov 17 at 4pm eastern (3c/2m/1p). Register here.

In the meantime: invite yourself to keep breathing and see if your awareness can expand to include both the good stuff and the hard stuff.


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