“The work of the mature person is to carry grief in one hand and gratitude in the other and to be stretched large by them.
How much sorrow can I hold?
That’s how much gratitude I can give.
If I carry only grief, I’ll bend toward cynicism and despair. If I have only gratitude, I’ll become saccharine and won’t develop much compassion for other people’s suffering.
Grief keeps the heart fluid and soft, which helps make compassion possible.”
It’s hard to know what makes certain revelations illuminate against a dark canvas and what causes them to sink into obscurity. I discovered this quote on an Instagram page this morning, and everything about it reverberates within my soul.
Do you ever have those moments? Times where a sense, thought, feeling, etc., surfaces up higher than the rest of mediocrity and burns in your mind like a lighthouse in the fog? Where no matter how many times prior you heard it, told it to yourself, or were exposed to it, it inevitably kept glancing off your armor at just the right angle so that you didn’t feel it? And then, for no other reason, a soft breeze comes, finding the chinks and cracks in your defenses, and then sends a shiver down your spine more potent than any explosive?
I’ve spent too many hours enjoyably pondering this phenomenon, and I’m pleased to say I’m no closer to understanding it now than I was when first aware of its existence. But, just because I enjoy the magic doesn’t keep my curiosity from exposing the spell. One day, I hope to understand why I can tell myself something a million times, but it won’t make sense until I hear it from someone else. Why are so many of my efforts in vain until the right time comes along, and then like dominoes, I can’t keep up with the cascade?
How are my emotions so volatile yet also contain the formula to almost every facet of my life? Why are we prone to faith, hope, belief, and love during the average moment, but when the s*** hits the fan, we struggle for that glow of light that’s disappeared beyond the horizon?
This year has seen me in my utmost miserable state…I never imagined I could fill myself with such measures of guile, bitterness, doubt, or assertive anger. I haven’t been keeping up with my blog based on this point alone: I don’t often fall so far into despair, but when I do, it consumes me. With that being the case, while writing is a cathartic process for me, there are some ledges and cliffs I’d rather not skirt.
While this constitutes one of my most significant weaknesses, it also highlights one of my greatest strengths: I know how to identify my current state. I do really well at existing within it, learning about it, and then rising above it.
But for the life of me, this year has me stumped. No matter what I do…no matter how many times I change my attitude…no matter the strides made, mountains climbed, or victories attained, this darkness is beyond my ability to dissipate. I take full responsibility for my state of being, but if after so much effort on my part, nothing is different, I have to acknowledge that perhaps I’m not as much of the problem as I thought I was.
That being said, I cannot ignore that this life is mine. Therefore this problem is mine. And I needed this quote so much.
A dear friend once shared a thought with me about the level of grief I’m handling. He said that perhaps some of what I’m feeling is God allowing me to feel some of what He is going through. This thought stopped me in my tracks, not necessarily because I know or believe this to be unequivocally true. No, this stilled my mind because I’d never once thought of God sharing part of His experience with us. And the more I think about it, the more it makes sense that this could happen.
While I stand by one of my earlier comments about my situation not necessarily being entirely of my creation, there’s no way currently for me to prove this or to confirm or debunk my friend’s thought. However, it has led to some fun and essential avenues regarding myself and those around me. And now it ties into the Instagram quote.
I’m an empath and proud of it. I’m generally the one that people turn to when they’re in their darkest hour and need someone in their corner. This has always humbled me, and I’m honored to be thought of so highly by so many. And due to the education I’ve had, I’m blessed to say that I’ve learned to regulate my own madness quite well. But I also know that no safeguard is “life-proof,” and if God wishes me to grow, He knows exactly where to send that soft gust of air to completely undermine my armor.
Another of my greatest strengths highlights one of my most significant weaknesses: I can be there for others to an astounding degree, full of resilience, patience, objectivity, love, understanding, and strength. With myself, though, I keep falling incredibly short in these categories. This year is one where I keep falling short.
I have a hard time asking for help because so many people have let me down over the years (and this year, there have been so many surprising letdowns). My hope is all but shot. I’m lost in a desert of not only my own design, and all my safeguards weren’t adequately built for this level of insanity. My marriage almost crumbled. Some of my closest friendships collapsed on themselves. Years of professional development and career-building were cut off at the knees (I hate it when my livelihood is in people’s hands). My relationship with God is tumultuous and full of animosity (but still there and incredibly strong. It’s amazing to me how I can be so mad and hate Him right now, but that only draws me in closer. The Guy is a wizard), and my own attitude and outlook toward myself is the worst it’s ever been.
And yet, I can’t help but keep trying. Even though I don’t always know what I’m trying for or why.
Something I like to say, though, is if we’re going to take the time to beat ourselves down, we better take the time to build ourselves up.
I’m back in school, which needed to happen. I’m restrengthening my foundations in incredible ways, seeing now the issues I never knew were issues. I’ve had a few friends (some established and some new) fight for me despite my dark intensity. I can’t thank these people enough. My wife and I are standing by each other through the difficulty of seeing our relationship not only restored but evolving. My family feels closer than they’ve been in a while, and I’ve felt love and strength pouring from them this year in droves. And God continues to stay distant, but close enough so I know He’s there (whatever game He’s playing I only have pieces of).
In previous blogs, I’ve mentioned how if we don’t spend time feeling our emotions, acknowledging their power and presence, then we’ll never know what it’s like to live life with them, and we’ll fail to grow every subsequent time they appear. I’ve eaten these words many times in life, but never more than now.
If you knew some of your future, how would you feel? What would it be like in your mind’s eye to view the horizon? Would hate, love, appreciation, disgust, gratitude, or doubt fill your heart?
I’ve fought for so long to avoid what I know is coming. Because I accepted one thing, I can’t undo or prevent the necessary steps bridging it to the next. As an empath, I feel I should’ve known that the grief I’m experiencing now is essential to the next portion’s outcome. But it took this random, unrelated, non-coincidental exposure for things to click. I’ve lived this particular story often; it’s only the severity that’s different. This is a path I’ve walked before; it’s only the divots and grooves that are more pronounced. I’ve seen this future for years already, and I’ve been terrified of its arrival; all I’ve done is set myself up for failure.
I can’t change that I’ve lost dear friends because of this. To be honest, this is one of the most painful truths I’m struggling to accept and one that runs the deepest. I require a lot of myself and those around me, and I’m not ashamed of it. I hold everyone to a higher standard, though I’m more than happy to accept and love where we’re both at. Reality keeps me honest, humble, and eager, while the standard keeps my eyes up, my hope burning (to some degree, at least), and the future available.
But today, I’m so grateful for a random quote, posted by an inspired Instagram person I follow, that allowed my mind some resolution and peace. I see now that my gratitude is waning (and yes, one of my dear friends who stuck by me has been saying this for months) and that I’ve been playing life by Grief’s rules.
I need to foster hope again, though I don’t know how. I need to reinstate my patience and resilience, and that will take time. I need to learn what it’s like to trust people without a vicious turnaround due to challenging moments. Just because I knew this darkness was coming doesn’t mean I handled the preparation well. This is one lesson I need to finally learn.
I ask for your help with these things, and I ask for your compassion and rejuvenating presence. I’m at the stage where I’m not being allowed to get through this alone. I’m communicating as best as I know, and I’ll continue to get better. Please stick with me, and please share your indomitable spirits with me. I confess my weakness, and I desire to become healthy.
I know how this specific story will end, but I still have the power to determine its relative impact, position, and level attained when completed. This is necessary for me in ways I can’t yet fathom. But I’ve forgotten compassion, and it’s time to bring that back. I’ve traded forgiveness for bitterness, and I’m not a fan. I hold the world around me by the law of choice and consequence, and now it’s time for me to accept my consequences and move forward. While forgiveness doesn’t equal a complete reinstatement, it does allow light to come back in. And who knows, but that light will not only illuminate the darkness but restore the original passed itself to something more. Something…more itself.
I can only hope.