The Winding Path

Counselling Services provided by Barb Zacharias

May 2011: Paradox

Posted on May 16, 2011

I had other ideas in mind for May’s blog, prompted by last month’s Royal Wedding. However, recent events have me thinking along different lines.

Such as: life is paradox. We are constantly faced with pain and pleasure, joy and sorrow, grief and encouragement—simultaneously. By that I mean, life does not usually consist of first experiencing a down followed by the relief of an up. Unless, of course, a person struggles with bi-polar disorder which involves swinging between extreme highs and lows.

I am thinking of how on a beautiful day a person can receive devastating news of loss—of home, loved one, income. Or on the crummiest of weather days, a person can receive exceptional news of promotion, expectation, or acquisition which suddenly deems the cloudy skies irrelevant.

It seems, more often than not, life hands us variety rather than all-or-nothing. Exhaustion follows a lovely weekend in the Rocky Mountains. However, exhaustion is mere inconvenience compared to the devastation of flood or forest fire. My home is intact. I have not lost everything even if my health is less than optimal.

One of my worst fears is losing everything in a fire. There is no replacing the mementos of a life time of experiences. The photos, trinkets, and symbols of achievements, vacations, and relationships are gone. Permanently. However, if I live to tell about the fire, there is opportunity to make more memories and collect new treasures while grieving the loss of the former life mementos.

If a flood washes away my life as I know it, there is opportunity to make an even better one. I can hopefully find refuge in family and friends. I will not be alone in my loss or in the rebuilding of a life—as tragic and disabling as that may be initially.

Life happens in all its pathos and celebration. I want to be spared the heaviness of ‘real life;’ but then, that would require missing out on compassion, grace, mercy, loving kindness—all offered to me in my time of grief and rebuilding. I could not in return connect with others in their own distress—if we could somehow find the magic wand that not only relieves suffering but prevents it. Another paradox. For without pathos, we as human beings could not live out our true potential to love and care for one another. Our true purpose for living.

We miss so much of life by focusing exclusively on the pursuit of happiness. For it is, after all, only a pursuit—and only a part of life. This past weekend I heard a beautiful definition of the abundant life—to be fully awake and fully alive—whether that be in a time of affliction or affluence. I know for myself, I tend to ‘zone out’ to adversity—I want to be anything but awake and alive. But without the pruning and the manure, trees cannot produce and thrive.

In this paradox of life, we cannot have one without the other despite our efforts to drown our sorrows or eat our troubles away. In yet another paradox, for me to be fully awake and fully alive starts with acknowledging ‘The Void’ and granting myself permission not to fill it with food, or television, or work, or mood altering substances. The Void just is part of life. Oddly enough, it is very liberating to live with The Void without the constant effort to fill it.

My next step will be to take a look at what The Void is telling me about me—and what is interfering with being fully awake and fully alive—regardless of what life throws at me.

To end, my thoughts are with those facing devastating loss and are facing the gargantuan task of rebuilding shattered lives. My fatigue today is nothing compared to that. The weather, while fickle, is life giving. So today, I hold in my heart, gratitude for what is in my life and grief for those amidst adversity. And thankfully, my heart is capable of holding both simultaneously.

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