Earlier this week, one of my children called.
Mom, I’m sick; doctor says it’s strep. My response? Oh sweetheart, I am so sorry; that must really be painful.
Later that day, I was thinking about our upcoming move to Israel, and it looked somewhat like this: I’m kind of scared…I know we’ve moved a lot before, but this one feels harder for some reason…oh stop complaining, stop being so negative, where’s that gratitude list you wrote this morning? think of all the people really suffering in this world, and get off your pity pot.
Why don’t I talk to myself with the same love with which I speak to my children? Why can they be sad or frustrated or worried or in pain but if I slip even slightly from my self-imposed image of perfection, I berate myself?
Somehow, from somewhere I got it in my head that only one side of the yin yang symbol was correct—the light one. Meaning—all the positive emotions, the seven heavenly virtues, the curated social media positive psychology happiness images are the correct ones. And anything painful or upsetting or hard is just plain wrong. Even worse, a reflection of one’s deficiencies. My deficiencies.
Because we’re supposed to be happy and loving and forgiving and trusting and definitely grateful all the damned time, right???
The yin yang symbol reminds us that light and dark both exist. Simultaneously. In the world. In us. As poet Ross Gay has written, joy…is not a feeling or accomplishment: it’s an entering and a joining with the terrible. We know joy because we know the terrible. We know abundance because we know loss. We know beginnings because we know endings.
So maybe we could be a bit kinder to ourselves, a bit more loving. Maybe our inner dialogues could look a bit more like the outer dialogues we have with those we most love. And by doing so, we’ll be softening and healing our own hearts. As Elizabeth Lesser writes, When you feel yourself breaking down, may you break open instead. May every experience in life be a door that opens your heart, expands your understanding, and leads you to freedom.