I've been thinking a lot lately about joy and sorrow. I used to think that we were either happy or sad—that we all have phases of life that are happy and phases of life that are sad. I used to think the goal of life was always striving to get the happy phases back, or to create a new happy phase.
I've come to learn that happiness and sadness can, in fact, coexist at the same time in our lives. This has been a very strange realization for me, but it has been a huge part of my existence the past couple of years. I have felt both immense sorrow for certain things and immense joy for other things at the same time. I've been mourning tragedies and difficulties that family members and friends are going through. I've been feeling pain from the selfish and/or negligent actions of others and my own shortcomings. I've felt sorrow because of loss, my failures, and world events going on around me. I've wept more than I ever have. I've been more depressed than I ever have. I've poured my heart out in prayer with more intensity than ever before.
These last couple of years have presented the most difficult challenges I've ever faced. But at the same time, I've experienced more joy than I've ever known before. Almost three years ago, Allen and I were married and he has been a constant source of support, companionship, and love that has brought me joy and comfort in ways I'd never felt before. We've created so many wonderful memories that have brought me many moments of happiness. We've made new friends and we've created stronger bonds with family members. We've hit huge milestones like buying our first house, expecting our first child, graduating college, and meeting career goals. We've had amazing spiritual experiences that have given us peace and understanding. We have so many things to be grateful for. All of this makes me very happy. These past couple of years, I've laughed harder than I ever have before and the amount of love I feel is deeper and more intense.
It's a strange feeling to be more disappointed, depressed, and discouraged than ever before while at the same time feeling more happy, hopeful, and fulfilled than ever before. I'm still making sense of all of it, but it is truly how I feel. I'm now a huge believer in experiencing moments of joy, even during long periods of sorrow. I believe that happiness is not a constant state of being that we will someday achieve. I believe that we are meant to experience both happiness and sadness, and often simultaneously. I think we have to work hard to not give the sorrow complete power over us and to savor the joyful moments, but I know it is possible.
So, let's be grateful for life and all of it's messiness and conflicting experiences and emotions. Let's be grateful for the growth and self-discovery that sorrow brings. Let's be grateful for and notice the joy.
***Note from Mae: A couple weeks after I wrote this post, I came across a blog post from The Shine Project that illustrates exactly what I was thinking and feeling about joy and sorrow SO well. Check it out here for some amazing words of wisdom!