September 7, 2014

"Being alive is a paradox."

“Being alive is a paradox, an ongoing mix of things that on the surface don’t always seem to make sense.  But voicing what doesn’t seem to make sense helps. It’s like an orchestra tuning up to play together. We have no chance of discovering the fullness of our inner music, if we don’t let the players in our hearts and minds and spirits tune.” 
– Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

In having lived in Portland now for just over three months, I have to pinch myself  every day because I love it so much – the energy, the people, the food(!), the architecture, everything.  Lately, I've been waking up at dawn to take my daily constitution (i.e., power walk) down Congress Street, to the water, back up Commercial Street, and through the West End and back to my apartment.  The sights, the sounds, the smells of the city – it’s a completely sensorial experience that makes me feel so fucking happy to be alive. 

Conversely, there are moments at the end of the day, when I'm reclined on my sofa, reading and/or listening to music, that I'll reflect on a foregone memory or experience and tears will suddenly well in my eyes.  Typically, it'll be over in a few minutes and the brush with sadness will be washed away with the tears.  This, quite ironically, makes me feel fucking alive too. And there is no shame, no guilt, because for me, it's a fleeting emotion that I clearly needed to deal with.  A big part of life is experiencing and feeling it all – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The spontaneous tears are less frequent than they used to be, especially 6-9 months ago when all I seemed to do was cry, but they’re still there on occasion.  And it would be wrong to ignore them, to dull them somehow by distraction, or to otherwise feel guilty about feeling fleeting moments or sadness, because they’re a byproduct of an emotion that is very much alive in me. If I sanitized myself of that, I would be denying a big part of who I am and where I’m at.  

The other day I came across a Brene Brown quote that says, “We can’t selectively numb emotion. Numb the dark and you numb the light.”  I thought that was so poignant because many of us feel that in order to feel happy (the pinnacle of all emotions) we need to scrub away all sadness or all remnants of it, and that if allowing sadness to creep into our lives, there will be no room for joy or pleasure.  In actuality, it is the full range of emotions that are essential to the fabric of living an authentic life.  Diluted joy and self-convincing pleasures are not nearly as rich as the kind of joy/happiness that is felt when contrasted with sadness/anger/hurt, and all are inevitable and natural human emotions that should not be dulled or diluted. 

Sometimes crying at odd times doesn't "make sense," especially if you feel like your life is otherwise rich and full.  But it is the accepting of the paradoxes, the shades of gray, the complexities within us that provide us with the platform for growing and evolving.  By not accepting these paradoxes - these moments of unexpected tears or brushes with sudden joy and love - we are rejecting an authentic, genuine, sometimes messy life.  

Call me crazy, but a self-imposed sterile and safe life with no risk, no curiosity, no complications is inevitably a boring one.  I'll take a slightly flawed orchestra in development over an auto-tuned produced electro beat any day (though I do like my electro on occasion - but in my ears not as a metaphor to life).

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