The joy with the pain
“…if you are setting our to be joyful you are not going to end up being joyful. You are going to find yourself turned in on yourself… and I think some suffering, maybe even intense suffering, is a necessary ingredient for life…”
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
I have spent years seeking joy and happiness and a sense of purpose in my life, all the while trying hard to avoid stress, difficult feelings and sadness. In the last six months I have felt more stressed, more anxious and more distressed than at any other time in my life. But I have also begun to feel a much deeper sense of fulfilment than before. All this coincided with becoming a parent, and it has finally taught me what years of reading could not quite prove: that happiness and sadness go together, that our depth of feeling for both increases at the same rate, that fulfilment comes in tandem with struggle.
I found The Book of Joy (His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu) at my Dad’s house this weekend. On the inner flap it says of the two authors: “Despite their hardships - or, as they would say, because of them – they are two of the most joyful people on the planet.” It’s not a new idea that to know joy you must know hardship but until now it had, for me, been an abstract one. It is only now that I have begun to feel some of the truth of it.
Just as the Buddhist monk Taka Kawakami said “Suffering and motivation are two sides of the same coin.”, so joy and pain are reflected in one another.
I am beginning to accept that feelings are not just one or the other. They are complex, blended, tangled. But in the tangle there is depth and if we can feel deeply and live with intensity then that extends to the full spectrum of experience, of pain and joy and fulfilment.