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Thursday, April 1, 2010

On Joy and Sorrow

JOY - A source or cause of keen pleasure or delight; something exceptionally festive or satisfying. [Joy week starts here. Click here for this week's Bliss Initiatives]

"To find joy in another's joy, that is the secret of happiness." 
— George Bernanos

Thank you to everyone who reached out to me yesterday when I was experiencing the shock of not being unique! I am here to report I have recovered.

When I was a child I spent a lot of energy on being unique. I was voted class clown in my Senior year in high school and this was the culmination of a whole bunch of crazy behavior. To get a laugh from other students, I squirted water guns at teachers, made pretend announcements over loud speakers, wore pajamas on field trips, and hundreds of other things I've blocked out by now! Thankfully a lot of this energy was harnessed into student activities, plays, yearbook editing, cross country running so I manage to get out of school without a criminal record!

All of my childhood shenanigans were really just a way to keep from getting hurt. If I acted like a happy clown then you wouldn't find out that I was actually hurt when my 16 year old crush dated my sister instead of me, or that I was upset when I didn't get asked to the prom. Being "unique" shielded me from dealing with a lot of emotions.

"Joy and Sorrow" ~Zhong-Yang Huang

Thankfully for me life keeps on coming, and in time I got over this and I am now able to dive head first into all of the emotions the human experience has to offer. What I didn't understand when I was younger is that joy's opposite is actually an access to the very things I was seeking. In deflecting sorrow I was also deeply hindering my experience of joy.

The two require each othe

On Joy and Sorrow

From The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran 

The Prophet

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. 

Some of you say, "Joy is greater thar sorrow," and others say, "Nay, sorrow is the greater."
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed. 

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

Having a child is what gave this access to me. The heartbreaking thought that anything might happen to my precious girl has really given me full access to the joy of having her in my life. Before having a child I was not a very emotional person. Now there are commercials that can make me cry.

My father died several years before my daughter's birth and I did not cry at that time. I was the steady rock that shepherded my family through the difficult situation. I told myself that because he died after suffering long from illness that it was all for the best. Somehow, at least I had the presence of mind to ask him to share some of his thoughts on life, which he hand wrote the answers to in a scrapbook I made with photos from his life. I cherish this book now even if it pains me to realize I never allowed myself to fully be present while my father was alive. He wrote his biggest regret was that his children didn't come to him for advice. My fear of disappointing him is what kept me away. Oh how I wish I had taken the chance now!

So chances I will take. Difficult conversations will be had. Sorrow will not be feared. I intend to live the rest of my life with access to the depths of joy available. How about you?

Next Post: Update on the Joy Bliss Initiatives

My 13 bliss virtues: joy, order, creativity, passion, whimsy, serenity, inquiry, community, romance, gratitude, moxie, humility, surprise


  1. Beautiful post ~ one of the quotes I use as a writing prompt in my "Celebrate Your Journey" workshop is a Native American proverb:
    The soul would have no rainbow if the eyes had no tears.

  2. I love this. I'm not good with change, so it's hard to take chances. I try to stretch myself as much as possible though, without being too far out of my comfort zone - if that makes sense.

  3. What a beautiful post - perfectly uplifting for Easter! Visiting from SITS :)

  4. Wow! I never would have thought that you were this type once upon a time. Thank you so much for giving us a glimpse of you and your journey. This is a fabulous post!

  5. My first host family suggested that I read the Prophet. They said it would do me good and they had it in English. I think I'll have to read it again as I can't remember it or getting much out of it.

  6. Thanks for the kind comments all! Jaye, I have to admit to not ever reading the entire thing straight though myself. The way it is written lends itself to viewing snip-its a good resource on a lot of topics when read this way!

  7. Cheers to taking chances! How can we really experience this life without putting ourselves out there? The good, bad, and the ugly. Great post!

  8. I've had this up forever in hopes that I'd find the words to comment...alas,...

    So all I can say is "I like it. I really, really like it". I feel like a little kid in awe - the depth I think you are trying to convey in this post (of sitting with it, being with it all) is what I feel.

    I'm going to stop typing now as I'm not sure how much longer this will make sense. :)

  9. Stopping from SITS! What amazing lessons you have learned. Thanks for sharing.


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Ben Franklin's 13 Virtues

  • 1. TEMPERANCE - Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  • 2. SILENCE - Speak not what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  • 3. ORDER - Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  • 4. RESOLUTION - Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  • 5. FRUGALITY - Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e. waste nothing.
  • 6. INDUSTRY - Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  • 7. SINCERITY - Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and if you speak, speak accordingly.
  • 8. JUSTICE - Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  • 9. MODERATION - Avoid extreams; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  • 10. CLEANLINESS - Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths or habitation.
  • 11. TRANQUILITY - Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  • 12. CHASTITY - Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or to the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation.
  • 13. HUMILITY - Imitate Jesus and Socrates.


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