Joy and Pain

“The pain then is a part of the happiness now…the happiness then is a part of the pain now.”

It’s something that struck me immediately when first I saw Shadowlands.

Joy has innate suffering in it. You order the number one “joy special,” you get a “side of pain,” like it or not. It might be shortly after you’ve devoured your joy special or it might be 40 years later. So, when you come to the cashier, it’s a matter of willingness. Are you willing to experience the joy at the cost of the pain suffered when the joy is over? Do you look for the “30 seconds of wonderful vs. a lifetime of nothing special” (Steel Magnolias) or not?

For example, people say expats are either running away from something or running to something. (As usual, I am the exception to the rule.) I am very forthright: I am doing both. Running away from pain and running to, what I hope will be, happiness. Happiness I could not possibly find in a place full of painful ghosts – dead and alive.

I love the ghosts, and that was C.S. Lewis’ problem as well. He loved the ghosts, both his wife, named Joy, and the idea of a future with her. His pain after her death was, as he noted, a part of the happiness they’d shared. She said the reverse before she died. It’s true. They are an inextricable deal – a 1 for 1.

As adults, we have to put childish ways behind all the time, even when the “childish” way feels more natural or comfortable to us than the alternative way. Pining after a dream that could never materialize or a family that was not capable of staying together or a love that just could not be – it’s a painful way to live…and it is child-like.

Putting a positive spin on that loss, perhaps a simple acknowledgment that the joy/pain relationship is challenging, as Mom said, “forever” is enough of a catharsis to be put it behind. Forever. Be drastic. Be bold. Forge a new path toward happiness.

No, I’m not suggesting everyone move to Switzerland (for God’s sake, please fully examine the reality of that decision). I am suggesting that letting go of that “dream” or connection to a life that is…well…not, might lead you to that 30 seconds of wonderful. 30 seconds you will never get if you don’t let go of the ghosts.

(Only 9 sleeps to go…


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