Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Sadness is Beautiful Too
I took this series of photos in November as I was leaving Sheboygan (my hometown). I had just spent 2 weeks there with my family for the passing of my Grandmother and her funeral.
I spend A LOT of time walking on the shores of Lake Michigan when I am in Sheboygan, so I decided to take one last walk on the beach before leaving town.
As I walked down the gravel path to the beach, I saw her incredible beauty. I was struck by her iridescent waters, so many shades of blue and green, her openness, her femininity, her receptivity, her soft, fluid waves, her vastness, and her expansiveness, and I began to sob. Soul-shaking sobs racked my body. And these sobs were expressing something much more than just sadness.
They were expressing some grief for my past, my childhood, and the passing of my grandmother.
They were also expressing EXTREME gratitude and awe at the incredible divine tapestry of existence, the goodness of God, the perfection of creation, and the abundant blessings of my life.
I was overwhelmed by how blessed I am to have such an incredible family. I cried for the tragedies and suffering that we have experienced, and for the love and strong ties that continue to hold us together, despite our vast differences and the rifts in our relationships, past and present.
I cried for everyone in the world who suffers, everyone in the world who prays, sings, loves, laughs, dances, and cries just like I do.
I was feeling very deeply at peace even though the emotions were so strong.
I was feeling grateful for my strong emotions, which has definitely not always been the case. I used to resent them, and now I see them for the blessings, gifts, and teachers that they are.
I am so glad that I took this photo to remember how I was feeling in that moment, and I am so glad to share the experiences with others.
I posted a series of these photos on Facebook awhile back with the caption "Sadness is beautiful too." Today they sparked a very interesting conversation.
It started with a post from a woman named Michelle who I met once at a business networking event in Wisconsin a couple of years ago. She wrote, "Why were you so sad. I do not think sadness is so beautiful rather something this life will definitely have us endure."
I found this really interesting, and responded, "Mmmm...I find sadness to be so sweet...deep within it there is so much beauty. All of the emotions are gifts and teachers, and to embrace them all equally and feel them all deeply is to live fully."
Michelle responded, "Ahhh...I can see your point to some extent as the Bible says--
2 Corinthians 7:10
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
But then which are we?
and I see it more from the other side of the glass
A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.
Obviously, I-- a believer.
Other comments ensued, such as...
Krisha: "What a perfect picture. I can taste your tears just by looking at it."
Malinda: "This is such a beautiful picture. I agree--sadness can be so rich in emotional beauty, and it's nature as such really shines through in this photo. ♥ (Hope you are either feeling better or truly enjoying the sadness!)"
Then Michelle responded again, "The sadness doesn't shine...the only thing that is beautiful is you. You look like you lost weight and have no make up. Most woman you can't see anymore because they are covered. And as you can hear from a previous post..."tasting the tears".....well you have reached the spirit. I pray for most in your circle that it is beauty as for most it is a very real emotion that is coming through this photo, that will make a heart ache.
A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit"
At this point in the dialogue, I posted the full explanation of the photo, which I shared at the beginning of this blog post, and Michelle responded again:
"Ah....thank you for sharing. That is beauty! Sharing our lives with one another and trusting the most intimate details to a stranger. May God shine on you today through the rain....giving you rainbows! Thanks Again!"
My friend Carlos chimed in, "Everyone who loves cries. It means you are sensitive and in touch with your inner world. So don't worry what anybody says. One can even cry out of joy rather than suffering. Thank you Erin, for being in touch with your inner self enough to be sensitive like that!"
Another friend, Zack, added "Stubbing your toe hurts, heart break hurts, a car crash hurts, a friend dying, you get the idea things like this usually seem to suck. But I'm thinking that if you change your mind about how you view it and enjoy it for what it is, then its not bad at all. I don't know its just a thought Ive been thinking about lately."
To this, I responded, "Zack, yes, perception is everything, and sadness, pain, etc don't have to be "bad." In fact, good and bad are basically irrelevant when we just accept "what is." We can fall in love with reality, and then we can embrace anything that comes our way. I love Byron Katie's work for this."
And finally, my dear friend Deborah wrote, "Not that we need any more posts here, but Erin...you are truly a souls sister. I have taken similar photos of myself..so it brings back memories. I love how this moved people to write and express. Emotions are energy and energy is supposed to move..not be stuck. I love to just feel whatever is it...to go into it, and let it move...on the other side there is joy."
What an unexpected and interesting conversation!
We are conditioned in this culture not to feel our emotions. To the contrary, we are taught to avoid them, escape them, and dull them by distracting ourselves with TV, video games, food, alcohol, drugs, sex, or whatever else. So it is no surprise that people are not aware of the power and healing nature of feeling deeply.
I am experiencing the power of this more and more each day, appreciating my emotions for the wise teachers and precious gifts that they are. I am appreciating my sensitivity more and more because even though it can be painful, my life is richer for all of the intense emotions that I experience.
Ahhhhh, so much gratitude...