I’ve lived most of my life believing that the world is binary, that things are either this OR that.
That things are heavy or light.
Happy or sad.
Broken or whole.
Qualified or unqualified.
Heartbroken or full of joy.
Loved or unloved.
Wanted or unwanted.
Needy or independent.
I admit: I love compartmentalizing my life. My therapist said that I’m “masterful” at it, which strangely made me feel good. Compartmentalizing helps keep messy feelings in check, it helps my anxiety about work/school/family/relationships/etc. minimally effect everything else, and it helps me feel in control.
I cannot count the amount of times I’ve said “I don’t have time to be sad”. Because when you look at life as being binary, being sad means not being able to experience joy, or be productive, or engage any other parts of your identity.
Anne Robertson, a Methodist pastor and theologian, has other ideas about joy. She “compares [joy] to the Greek word for joy wich is chairo… Chairo is something, the ancient Greeks tell us, that is found only in God and comes with virtue and wisdom. It isn’t a beginner’s virtue; it comes as the culmination. They say its opposite is not sadness, but fear.”
A few years ago, I went to an event called “Heavy and Light” put on by one of my favorite organizations, To Write Love On Her Arms. The premise was that life is both heavy AND light. We are people who experience such great joy and an incredible amount of sadness throughout the lifespan. This concept, which was at first incredible, has transformed my life. Our lives indeed are heavy and light, pushing and pulling at every turn.
I’m sharing this with a simple proclaimation: life is not binary, friends. Multiple feelings can exist all at the same time. For example, today I’m feeling all of the following: joyful, happy, grateful, HOT (100 degree weather can go now), fearful, loved, validated, worthy, but also like the universe is being unfair. I feel strong and weak at the same time, and am determined to know deep within my being that this is okay.
With all of the love, hope, and grace I can possibly offer:
Lean into discomfort. Lean into the scary because joy and love and beauty will feel that much more sacred.
** Note: I started this piece over a month ago, and am just now finishing it. I’d like to attribute it to busy-ness, but in reality I’ve been sitting on my ass wishing that I would prove this to be untrue. But it isn’t, and has proved to be a much more complicated belief that I can uncover. But here is this: love with all of your love, and if you’re scared, say it out loud. Dance in a bowling ally and cry under the covers in the same night, if you need to. In the end, I promise you will know and love yourself more than you could imagine.