Thursday, April 14

The Paradox of Sadness and Gratitude


-a situation, person, or thing that combines contradictory features or qualities.

Blogging is not an option right now... for the most part. 

I have written lots, but can not let it into the world just yet. The emotions that have been swirling in my head for the last 3 months are best kept stored for now. Probably because I am not ready to grasp all the complexities of this part of my journey at this moment. 

But this one thing keeps coming up and I feel it's time to talk about it. 

The Paradox between Sadness and Gratitude. 

I have now, on numerous occasions, had conversations with people regarding my mother and how she is doing and then of course how I am doing, that for some reason or another have concluded in that person saying something like, "well just remember to be grateful for Jason" or "Remember your blessings and that you have a nice house"
 I have also been told, "just be more grateful"

These interactions leave me very confused. I leave feeling angry and baffled and sometimes sadder than I did before I started talking to that person. 

Why can't sadness and gratitude hold space at the same time? Does me being sad automatically mean I am ungrateful?

I consider myself someone who is very grateful. It's my life motto. I strive to be grateful in everything I do. Does me being mad or heartbroken over my mother somehow make me less grateful? Can't I be both? 

I went for my morning walk today and posed this question to Mel, my friend who's Mother in law is now end stages of liver cancer and we talked about this. I asked her the same thing and she said, "If I wasn't grateful for these things, I would have no reason to be sad." 

And that finally gave me a vocabulary to why these exchanges leave me feeling so annoyed. 

The suggestion I am not grateful is offensive. Of course I am grateful. I am grateful for everything I have, but the idea that my 2 year relationship with a man is somehow a magic repair to the deep, confusing and devastating wounds I feel regarding my mother getting sick is ridiculous. She has been my mother for 38 years. It's a complex thing. 
This has and will forever change who I am. 

Jason knows he is the love of my life and not even he would be so foolish to think he makes natural, healthy and expected sadness vanish. 

I think people just get scared of strong emotions. They don't know how to just listen. Just allowing someone to voice their sadness (that might also presents itself as anger) is hard for people. It's uncomfortable. So, they need to fill that space instead of holding it. 

"Ooh it's ok"
"Just be grateful for what you do have"
"Remember your kids"
"Be grateful you have a nice house"
"Just be happy"

BLAH!!!  Seriously... WTF???

If people think having a man and a house is going to make my heart heal from what my mother and family are going through and make the pain go away...Then I am a horrible horrible person who does not deserve friends. If that's the kind of person you think I am, please, for the love of god, put me on a raft and push me out to sea. I do not want to be that kind of person. 

If holding space is difficult let me offer some helpful things for you to say instead. 

"I am so sorry you are feeling this way"
"This seems really hard"
"Do you want to go punch things with me?"

.....or, just go bake muffins. Don't talk, just bake muffins, muffins and wine. 

I challenge this idea that these two emotions can not have pride of place at the same time in my heart and be treated with the same respect. I do not accept that when I am one, I am not able to be the other as well. Both feelings are beautiful in their own way. 

The other night when I was putting Nora to bed after a long day, she asked to be tucked in. She wanted to have the blanket shoved under her sides as she lied there in bed with the covers up to her chin. She is 8 and has not asked for that in ages. Normally we just read together. But this night she wanted to be tightly tucked in and in that moment a wave of emotion hit me remembering that very thing my mother use to do for me when I was little. I felt a wash of sadness and gratitude at the same time. Sad for times long past, and gratitude for stored memories that are surfacing at times when I least expect them. 

I can be both. I am both. Sadness and Gratitude seem like friends right now in my life, and I don't think I will feel one without the other for a long time to come. They might even get matching tattoos. 


I am grateful for understanding. I am so sorry the Straight Family is going through this, but it's nice to have someone to talk to who understands my feelings. 

I am grateful for friends who, without hesitation, can make me laugh and get me. 

I am grateful for the bright beautiful sun that blasted through the windows this morning. Buds on my tree and the geese back in the lake. The Lilacs will be out soon and my heart heals best around lilacs. 



Unknown said...

Well said Joelle! People often often don't know what to say when confronted with illness/death so they try to make thoughtful suggestions that come out sounding asinine. I've probably been guilty of this in my lifetime, but have learned that a hug and a listening ear say far more.
Take care of yourself..whatever that looks like.

~Angie said...

AlisonL said...

A dear friend of mine travels internationally speaking on the subject of the marginalized. She worked in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver for many years and is a prominent voice for social justice. She said the single MOST marginalized group(although interestingly never even rates on people's top 10 list of who they expect), are the grieving. People who grieve are very often displaced from their community because people just don't know how to deal with it well. I experienced this significantly when I separated from my husband. So instead of letting the sadness be an acceptable part of your life, they dismiss it with well intentioned but super annoying comments like "just be grateful, it could be worse." Of course sadness and gratitude can co-exist. In the same way that the beauty in the broken and the mercy in the mess exist. Doesn't mean it's any less broken or there's any less mess. Just that we've trained our eyes to see the good: sometimes. somewhere. Of all of my pain and disaster in the last few years...I am SO grateful that it's taught me how to just be kind and stop telling people what to do or how to feel. Thinking of you. xo

Unknown said...

I love this one! I totally understand what you mean, and I have probably done it as well.....we don't know what to say when confronted with bad news, sad news, death or illness.....
Me go to is "that sucks!" Because you know what it does!? It does suck that your mom is ill and it does suck that my mom was shot down with a death sentence illness as well, it sucks your friend is also going through it with her MIL :( it sucks that people don't get it, that people suck when they say just be grateful, be grateful for this and for that.....I am grateful that I had as much time as I will have had with my mom, I am grateful that I can read your blog and enjoy and feel and know what you are going through......but I don't need people to tell me to be grateful as you don't either....I'm thinking of you, enjoying your posts and laughing at your show always! Xo

Kristine said...

Aww.This choked me up. Beautifully are a wise woman with a wise friend.

Kristine said...

Aww.This choked me up. Beautifully are a wise woman with a wise friend.

Unknown said...

I'm sorry you are going through this, I can't imagine how it feels.
I too, am looking forward to my lilac blooming. When I stop to breathe in the beautiful aroma, I will think of you and your dear mom x

Jillanne said...

I love how you put words to feelings we have all (or will) experienced. I think it's so important to just allow sadness to happen sometimes. You're right. People are uncomfortable with negative conversations, and we're probably all guilty of trying to not talk about something hard at times. I think we all just need to embrace silence sometimes (along with some of the things you suggested they say). Silence can be supportive in its own way.

Stay strong, Joelle. And stay sad when you need to.

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