Sometimes life can seem wonderful, the sun is shining, we’re on top of the world and everything’s going our way.
Then at other times the walls come crashing down, we’re left desolate in the rubble of the blows life has dealt us and everything looks bleak and dark.
The more we try and make sense of these two disparate realities, the more we get twisted in knots.
Some of us believe the bleak and black must be the only reality and we ignore all the good, expecting life will only ever bring us hardship and pain.
Some of us feel uncomfortable with the darker side so we bury it deep and put on a smile that fools even ourselves, expecting life to be wholly wonderful and feeling hurt, surprised and confused whenever anything bad happens.
I’ve lived in both of these camps at different points in my life. I think it’s human nature to be in one mindset or the other, often swinging between the two depending on where life takes us and what it throws at us.
They’ve each served their own purposes to some extent but I’ve recently discovered an alternative way to reconcile the good and the bad bits of life that doesn’t leave me tied up in knots or crumpled on the floor like some kind of emotional train wreck.
The good, the bad and the ugly
There’s a lot of very good stuff in my life – I have an amazing husband, a lovely house and garden, wonderful friends and family, I live in an affluent part of the world where we have shelter, food, water, sanitation, health care, etc.
There’s also a lot of unpleasant stuff that comes with having a significant and currently incurable health condition (though countless scientists are working hard on this – hooray for science and all you lovely scientist people!) I can’t work or drive at the moment, motion and travelling is very difficult so I’m largely housebound, I’ve lost a lot of my independence and freedom, I’ve had to let go of a lot of my hopes, plans and dreams.
Both of these are very real.
Neither has to justify the other or cancel the other out – the good doesn’t make the bad ok, and the bad doesn’t stop the good being good.
The very good and the very bad can co-exist together.
They don’t have to balance out.
I found that when I tried to balance out the good and the bad I got stuck in the middle, unable to feel anything.
It turns out that if you try to shut off the bad, you inadvertently shut off the good too.
They both get diluted down to the point where they lose their flavour altogether – the pain of the bad is less, but so is the joy of the good.
I realised that if I wanted to experience the good again, I also had to experience the bad (in ways that felt safe of course – it’s taken time and patience and a lot of love and support from the people around me, it’s not really something that can happen over night).
I’m now at the point where I’d rather taste the full array of what life has to offer than dilute it all down just so I miss some of the more unpleasant bits.
I’m also realising that I don’t have to swing between the bleak and dark (where I expect everything to be hopeless forever more) and the sweet and rosy (where I expect everything to be picture perfect). I can learn to hold the bad and the good together, in harmony, at the same time.
‘Cause it’s a bitter sweet symphony, this life
I’ve come to see life more like the Bitter Sweet Symphony that serenaded my indie youth.
I can hold both extremes together – the very good and the very bad, as well as everything in between.
Life will always be a mixture of the good and the bad, the highs and the lows, the bitter and the sweet.
And that’s ok.
Previous posts in the Mindful Mondays series: