It has recently come to my attention, via several different conversations, that a frequent theme of my writing is how hard things are. How difficult. How challenging. For me, for those around me, and for... well, everyone. And this is undeniably true. The last few years have been hard for everyone.
I write about the things that are hard. I try and do this openly and honestly (perhaps too honestly at times) because this is part of how I process the things that happen to and around me. It helps me better understand myself, the world, and my place in that world.
I also do it because I believe that there are others out there who are feeling the same things and who need to hear that they aren't the only ones dealing with hard things. One of the things that defines trauma is a feeling of isolation. When we are down and struggling it can feel like we are the only ones who have ever walked that path. Struggle is often lonely. A burden shared is a weight divided.
And. Two things can be true at once.
While being open and transparent about struggle helps me process and meet challenges and overcome setbacks, and helps me connect with others who are struggling, it can also seem, at times, that my life is impossibly hard and that I spend a lot of time unhappy.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Almost every day, I am thrilled to be here. I look forward to my day. EVERY day, I recognize the depth and breadth of my blessings and my privileges and I am grateful beyond measure for the good things in my life.
I think that American hyper-capitalism has skewed our perceptions of joy and happiness (and sadness for that matter) and twisted it into some unrecognized fun house image of wellbeing. We have been conditioned by advertising and mass media to believe that happiness should be ever-present and ongoing. And that it is easy to obtain, if only we pay 19.95 plus shipping and handling for whatever gizmo / diet / plan that will give it to us.
Happiness and sadness are extremes. You won't be happy all the time. No matter what stuff you buy. No matter which God you pray to. No matter what you eat (or don’t eat) or what you wear or what you drive.
What you *can* do is be content. You can learn to find joy in the small things, and smile through the big things. You can learn to find hope, even amid challenge. Happiness comes and goes. Hope is resilient. Hope is about seeing the good and the bad and knowing that they are both parts of what make life, ... life. Life is 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows, and contentment (and the hope that comes with it) grows from seeing - and feeling - both.
I may not always be happy. But I am not always sad either.
I am content.
I am content because I can see the bad things that happen and know that they are temporary. I am content because I also see the good things in my life and know that they are as much a part of my experience as any of the hard things.
I live a life of purpose, meaning, and connection. I work every day to make the world a tiny bit better than how I found it. I am surrounded by love and support. I have the most incredible family that anyone could have, full of people who awe, inspire, frustrate and amaze me daily. I have a group of friends who are diverse in experience, background, outlook, and approach to life. All of whom, for reasons that aren't always clear to me, seem to delight in being a part of my life.
I have a partner of beauty, depth, light and grace. Who has been with me through the darkest nights and is the one person in the world that I want to be with when it's backs against the wall, Butch and Sundance in the cabin out of ammo time. She is everything to me.
I have a community that is flawed and imperfect and sometimes lies to itself about who and what it is but never, ever stops trying. Chapel Hill has become my home, the geographic center of my hope. My place, in all its imperfect perfection.
I can see all the good things that surround me, I am able to find contentment, because I can also recognize all the places where things are not good and all the things that are hard. I recognize good because I know bad. Bad doesn't scare me, because I know that it lives among so much good. We are surrounded by beauty and light, even in the dark. Even when things are hard.
Nothing is just one thing. Ever.
I will continue to talk about hard things not because hard things are all there is, but because I am able to feel the weight without worrying about being crushed by it. Because I know I am not the only one carrying it. I am surrounded by people who take a little bit of it every day. Who love me and inspire me and help me. I never hold the weight alone.
And neither do you. Even when it feels like you are alone. Especially when it feels like you are alone.
Hope lives among hopelessness. Joy and despair, happy and sad, good and bad, light and dark. They all sojourn together. There is not one without the other.
Take heart. Feel contentment. See the world as it is - complex and brutal and beautiful in equal measure. This is the work. This is life in its fullness.
May it ever be so.
Thanks for reading. I hope you have a wonderful week.
Be well, y'all. And keep pounding the rock.
I am reminded that you would focus on people's "positives" on Friday! That is a helpful reset at the end of each week. Or is that the beginning of the week?!?!