Understanding the tug-of-war between happy and sad | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

It’s been a crazy-busy year so far. A year that’s been marked by non-stop work, a state which can render you both stressed and blessed, which I’d like to believe is a good attitude to take.


It’s also been a year that has been marked early on by a lot of losses. Not a week has gone by, since 2013 opened when a close friend hasn’t lost either spouse or sibling.


Is life a tug-of-war of the happy and the sad?


I used to think that way and I used to be exhausted by the “power play” of happy and sad. It was a mind-set that I clung to all the way up to my mid-30s until I was hit with one loss after another but also, to my great surprise, simultaneously covered by God’s amazing grace.


In time I began to understand how life is like the railroad tracks, as you grow older, wiser and hopefully kinder you learn to embrace simultaneously the good with the bad, the happy with the sad. On life’s journey, you come to a point when you finally understand that they travel in tandem, like a tag team, always together, never one without the other.


When you are younger, there is always that thinking (of which I was guilty of for the first three and half decades of my life)—“Oh, I’m so afraid to be happy now because then sadness will follow”—an attitude that was more often than not reinforced by well-meaning elders who also did not know any better (Huwag masyadong masaya, kalungkutan ang susunod diyan). Then, as you grow older and see and experience in your own life the consistent comfort that God provides under each and every circumstance, you begin to understand that that kind of thinking is a myth that only serves to rob you of the sheer joy that comes from living life fully. At the end of the day you realize that joy and sadness reside side by side, like next-door neighbors on the street where you live.


Appreciating the other


The secret lies in learning to appreciate each one and in accepting with grace and fully embracing the gifts that each one brings.


There are still days when I feel wretched, when my hormones like to get the better of me. I’m in my late 40s (and proud of it) after all. There are those moments when I’m rattled or frazzled by deadlines that make a beeline at my door, or those rare days when it takes a major effort to find the sunshine in the gloom. I’ve also learned to trust and believe that everything passes, and that often, there is nothing that a good cry, or a good night’s sleep, or an evening spent laughing with my children cannot heal.


This year I promised myself that I would feed my brain more and so I committed to finishing at least one book a week. Last week I wrapped up Anne Lamott’s “Help, Thanks, Wow” and this week the plan is to finish “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed. Looking up this bright, sensible NY Times best-selling author, I came across something she wrote for another bestseller (which I’ve added to the 2013 book bucket list) “Tiny Beautiful Things—Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar” a collection of wildly popular advice columns that Strayed wrote before she became a NY Times best-selling author.


In “Dear Sugar#64” she writes, “You cannot convince people to love you. This is an absolute rule. No one will ever give you love because you want him or her to give it. Real love moves freely in both directions. Don’t waste your time on anything else… Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.”


There is no band that plays when we realize it’s time to let go, whether it is a relationship, a job, a loved one, a friendship. There is only a strong, deep sense of knowing that a chapter has come to an end. There are no theatrics played out, there is just, as Strayed describes it, a quiet acceptance when you finally listen closely to your heart.


Wisdom that comes with age


There are days when I look back on decisions I’ve made that have impacted my life, of circumstances that have unfolded that took me years to understand. Again, Strayed whose writing is so wise and compassionate provides an answer, “You will come to know things that can only be known with the wisdom of age and the grace of years. Most of those things will have to do with forgiveness.”


Ah, there goes that famous “F” word which is better left for another column on another day. For now, let us choose to be content on traversing the railroad tracks and allowing the road ahead to unfold as it must.


Follow the author on Twitter @cathybabao



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