Weal and Woe
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On this journey we call life, we live through the peaks and valleys of life. We do our best to find a balance between life’s challenges and life’s joys. On the good days, the joys outweigh the challenges. Life has balance to it. But then there are the times when joy is hard to come by and the pain of it all just seems to overwhelm.
Julian of Norwich wrote about this. She wrote that we have two hands. In one we carry weal, in the other woe. In one hand misery and in the other mirth.
Of course she is.
Why is that the joy, even from the midst of it, seems fleeting, while the woe, even from beyond it, seems to linger and feel like it won’t ever end?
Why is it that in the midst of our joy one word from the wrong person can end the good feelings, while in the midst of our deepest grief words from even our closest companions seem to have no effect?
A good mood can end abruptly; but depression, anxiety, grief, anger – they all seem to linger well beyond their use to us.
It is a real challenge to hold life in its proper perspective.
I’m hardly any expert at any of this, but I have learned along the way some things that I do that help me keep some balance.
First, I learn that most of what I am experiencing as something personal isn’t really. It has taken me a great while, but I have learned to remind myself to some good effect NOT to take it personally when I encounter either attacks leveled against my character or what Hamlet called the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. I can’t tell you how freeing it is not only to repeat the mantra “This is not about you,” but to actually know it to be true.
Second, I learn to breathe differently. I am learning more and more about how breath works – and how we can control not only our patterns of breathing, but how doing that can alter our mood. It can create more of a balance when emotional instability threatens because of the challenges we face.
Third, I smile. I wrote about this in a recent podcast after the death of Thic Nhat Hanh. Its pure emotional manipulation, but dang it if doesn’t work. I am often in a meeting listening to or reading about someone trying to tear me down, challenge my authority, or cast aspersions on my character – and I can feel my blood begin to boil. I remind myself “This isn’t about you.” I remind myself that treating it like it is only makes it worse. I remind myself to smile.
Finally, I surround myself with people who know me, love me, trust me. Just being around them eases the pain, reduces the threat, and actuates good feelings. I have learned that sitting with a grandchild in your lap and reading a book to them changes your outlook. A good friend or a life partner or a caring parent or an understanding sibling can do that. I don’t have to talk about anything – they often sense the disturbance in my spirit and just heal me by being there and reminding me of the goodness they see inside of me.
Yeah – life can be hard. And we can easily cast aside the weal and the mirth and give way to the woe and misery. So, taking steps to rebalance our spirits helps.
I pray that your weal outweighs your woe; and that when the misery mounts the mirth is not far behind on this, our journey Into the Mystic.