Hard Times and Joy

Liz Hofreuter presents a slideshow discussing hard times and joy.

“Nobody hangs hard times on the wall.” It’s a poignant line from a song that struck a cord deep within me when I first heard it. It rested in the back of my mind and walked with me through my day. We rarely have the courage and vulnerability to share the bad times. Publicly, we present our best façade.

We post our positive moments. We live lives on social media that barely resemble the truth of our daily experiences. Then we judge harshly our own reality against others’. The song continues, “You won’t see it in an 8 by 10 / But there’s a storm every now and then.”

There are storms. The bottom falls out. We lose our footing.

When we do, we rush to feel better. We crave connection, consensus, comfort… happiness.

I am beginning to see the value of just sitting with the discomfort. This too shall pass. As a younger woman I would hear those words expressed so often by my father, but I would think of them as devaluing my pain. I searched for validation and found wisdom, but I was not yet ready to hear it.

Emotional mastery means valuing an emotion – even sorrow. “For the deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain… 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.” So Kahlil Gibran writes in The Prophet.

I would like to emulate that for my daughters. I want them to know that there is sorrow. I want them to see it in my eyes and then witness when the tears turn to laughter. I want them to know their own struggles will not last – the pain, that can be overwhelming in any given moment, will in time be replaced by joy.

If I don’t, I am afraid they will be anxious when the pain washes in. They will text me as soon as the ground is shaky. They won’t trust themselves. Do I want them to feel safe coming home to me when life is hard? Of course I do. Do I want them to stand at the plate with courage when the inside fastball brushes them back? Even more so.

My job is not to be their hero. My job is not to clear the way ahead of them. My job is to nurture their young lives and love them unconditionally, so they will live a courageous and curious life full of purpose.

So let the sorrow come, but they need to see that the cause of the sorrow is a loss of that which has brought great joy. Of all the things I teach them through my own life – let them know the collateral beauty of life when the bottom falls out – that those who love us will sit with us until the storm passes. Joy returns. And through my example may they know that joy is cultivated with those who truly love us. Joy is best shared, for I am not sure it can fully exist without the company of others who also share its value.

I am thinking of hanging some new pictures in our home – the one of Ella with a fat lip, the one of Grace with tears as she left camp, Ella’s pout, or maybe Grace’s grimace after a disappointing race. Those will good on our wall.