“Life is so good that I can hardly stand it.”
I caught myself thinking this the other day. I recognize it as a standard bit of my usual self-talk, but I really heard it for the first time recently. Where on earth did a thought like this come from in the first place? How did the goodness of life become a source of discomfort for me?
This piqued my curiosity immediately once I really heard what I have been saying to myself, and I started asking myself all kinds of questions. I quickly discovered that I really did have some discomfort with the idea of life being good.
Some of this discomfort came from fear that life being so good was just setting me up for an even worse fall to come. Some of this discomfort came from intensity of the joy that I was experiencing and finding that this was an intense emotion that I was not accustomed to. But the greatest part of this discomfort was the fear that others would discount me, my hard work, or my life experience if my life was truly going well.
That last one really gave me pause. Where did that come from? Further self-questioning uncovered an underlying belief that people who are experiencing hardship and pain have more depth, more wisdom, and more value to the world. I had somewhere gotten the belief that happy people are shallow and less deserving of kindness or compassion. Because I have a strong value around being a person of depth, it’s no wonder that I find the experience of having things go well in life to be a challenging experience.
As I kept digging deeper and kept sitting with the questions, I decided that this underlying belief missed the point. Depth and wisdom come from being willing to be fully present with the intense emotions and experiences in our lives as they come. It’s about being fully aware and present to each moment in that moment. If I reject half of life’s experiences as unworthy of diving deeply into, I am actually making myself the shallow person I was trying to avoid being by not being present to all of life as it appears.
“As long as you make an identity for yourself out of pain, you cannot be free of it.” ~Eckhart Tolle
In fact, by valuing pain (and all of its accompanying emotions) so highly, I had made pain a key part of my self-identity. This means that I could not only never be free of it, but I was really only wallowing in it. I might have been diving deeply into it on one level, but if I wasn’t diving deeply enough to heal from the pain and put it behind me, then I really wasn’t gaining the wisdom or the true depth that I was imagining. I was just playing in the shallow end all along by clinging to my stories of pain and refusing to heal so that I could maintain this false identity that I had created for myself.
Awareness is such a powerful thing because once I’ve seen something like this, I can’t un-see it. Just becoming aware of this underlying belief and seeing how false it really is has loosened its hold on me. I can’t go back now even if I wanted to. And in just that simple moment of awareness, something shifted.
Since then, I am embracing the goodness of life. I still have all of my challenges in life; I’m still dealing with them on a regular basis. But they don’t disturb my focus on the goodness of life and the deep joy I am feeling at being alive. I’m diving deep into this experience of joy and learning the subtle nuances of this emotion just as I used to do with pain and heartache. In the process, I am creating a new identity for myself—one that is not defined by pain. In so doing, I am finding that healing was there waiting for me all along. It was just waiting for me to stop clinging to the pain.
“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.” ~Henri Nouwen
I’m choosing joy now every day. I’m finding that this is a deeper, more courageous thing to do than I ever imagined. I still have fears that people will treat me with less kindness and compassion if I am not in pain, but I’m not letting that stop me. Instead, I’m putting more effort toward treating myself with the kindness and compassion I need, which is bringing more and more joy—even in the moments when things are not going well. Choosing joy in the face of these fears, in the face of life’s challenges, in the face of things that go wrong, in the face of people who may not understand requires the courage, the wisdom, and the depth that I had been searching for all along.
The more I choose joy, the better life seems to become. Places where I’ve been stuck are dissolving into ease and flow. Problems that have seemed to have no solutions are suddenly being solved. Help is appearing out of nowhere—even from sources that were closed doors before.
Life is so good. And I’m finding that I can indeed stand it. I can even embrace it and dive deeply into it.
How are you choosing joy today?
A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a fragile and vulnerable place to be, so I am committed to keeping this a safe place for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight are not welcome here and will be deleted.