During the winter months, I would turn my creative outlet to scrapbooking. I would spend hours designing a layout for my pictures and in choosing a color scheme. I would also include a well thought journal entry describing the happy event. I love the way the books looked sitting on my shelf. Multi-color bindings each marked with its year in bold numbers, holding between its cover the year’s fondest memories. The books stop at the year 2008 as if to say good days ended here, which of course, is not true.
A few years ago my husband gave me a gift of a digital camera for our anniversary. He claimed that it was a together gift. I remember protesting because we both knew he would not use it. I remember him saying that he benefits because I was the keeper of the family history. I have every intention of fulfilling my role, but I can’t find the passion for it any longer. My morning routine is to check out the worldwide scrapbook of social media. Pictures, thought-provoking quotes, and clever posts are entertaining while I wait for the coffee to brew. Everyone seems happy as I scroll down the page. Everyone is counting blessings and singing praises. I should be recording our happy times too because I also believe that I am blessed. To be true to my role as the keeper of our history, should I not include the struggle we all have? It is easy to capture happiness in photos but not so with those darker periods. It is easier to express sadness in stories, poems or songs. I have a dear friend who composes incredible poems as a tribute to her lost son, the grief she feels leaps off the page as you read her words.
Pictures do give a glimpse of wonderful memories, but I want to zoom out and to show the dark corners of all the other emotions. There is sadness in the shadows. Disappointment and anger are lurking, about and fear is just around the corner, ready to pounce. It doesn’t seem right to display our life as only being happy. It gives the illusion that life should always be this way. We do not skip through the day with every detail falling into its place. I have a hard time living up to the image of the perfect life. These past few years it seems I have had to fight, manipulate and beg to get through my day. A true-life picture of me would look disheveled and old-looking – like I fought a war.
Living is messy. I am getting dirty and feeling the grit under my nails. It is here, in my writing, I am washed clean of all that. I pour it out on paper and clean out the garbage. Shake it off and get back on track. I want a record to show my children life is more than trying to spend your days finding the illusion of happiness. I have been teaching my children to focus on the positive and to be happy in every situation. What am I to tell them about the other emotions? To deny them? To buy something or take something to make them feel temporarily happy? I have monster emotions prowling in the corners of my life, should I to deny their existence? To cushion myself with positive quotes and daily praises? It feels like I am dishonest and a fake.
In my quiet time this week I was led to visit with sadness. I found it lurking in the shadows. I call out to it, beckoning it to take a seat right next to me to visit. Its presence is like a heavy blanket and, believe it or not, it brings me comfort. I have denied sadness its rightful spot for too long, and I’ve missed it. I can sit with it and cry over all that has been lost.
“The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” – The Prophet.
I am allowing sadness to carve away the unnecessary, to chisel into me crevices that can be filled with joy. I do not want to deny myself this. I want the plastic chipped away, as painful as it is. I want to stand toe to toe with the great sadness and allow it to expand me.
“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.” – The Prophet
When I read this, tears filled my eyes, and I felt that ache that takes my breath away, but at the same time I felt an overwhelming sense of joy. I acknowledged that to Sadness, and it lost its monster appearance of the big scary shadow and became a friend. I made room for it in my world.
Anger has also visited our household. My son was so angry for not getting his way. He spewed his frustration and stomped around the house. He wanted me to fix it. I had the power to make it better for him, but I could not risk what he would grow up to be if he got his way every time he stomped his foot. His anger hurt me and we clashed right there in the hallway, throwing hurtful words and threats until we were spent and we could only glare at each other. We went our separate ways only to come back in the morning with him humbly apologizing , and I instantly forgiving.
I have thrown my fair share of temper tantrums. I wish I could have my way and re-write our story. I want to throw my head back and howl at the injustice of it. Stomp through life and bellow how unhappy I am. I could do that. But I rather embrace the emotions, expand and grow from it. To feel the whole spectrum instead of the numb, plastic person I had become. I will rejoice with every tear and with every smile. I will let the monsters out of their hiding, and I will tame them. I want to teach my children to tame theirs. It will not be instantaneously visible. It takes minuscule steps on the journey to transformation. In the process, we will grin and bear it.