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As I have moved through my journey of Living Happier the biggest (and at times, hardest) lesson I have learned is life isn’t black and white. Life is a big, colorful mess. Life is full of emotions, thoughts and needs few of which we can put neatly in a box or precisely label. In fact sometimes, two opposite extremes are usually true: you love your partner, AND you are frustrated with him/her. You are supportive of your child in playing a sport, AND you are worried for his/her safety. You like your job, AND you are having a bad day. You are sad your parents are getting older, AND you enjoy every moment you spend with them. We have opposite extremes all the time–a friend of mine calls it ‘holding both.’ We are holding two extremes of being happy and sad or frustrated and thankful.
I believe a secret to Living Happier is to embrace the mess that is life. When we embrace the concept of ‘holding both’ we can fully experience life. I have a client (Sara*) who recently lost her mother to cancer. When she first came into see me, her mother had just been diagnosed. Throughout the process of her mom’s death which was relatively quick, I encouraged her to hold both–to express her sadness at losing her mom and feeling the gratitude of the moments when she and her mom laughed and shared. After her mom had died, Sara said that if she hadn’t had the concept of holding both she would have missed many special moments with her mom.
Examples of holding both, happen all the time in our day to day lives: being frustrated at a co-worker and understanding why they messed up, being sad about a loss of a job and relieved that you didn’t get it, being angry at your partner and sympathetic at the same time. Frequently we try to squelch one of the feelings because it doesn’t fit into a black and white world, or it isn’t logical. Well, my friend, life is not logical. Life is messy, full of contrasts and conflicts; it is rich with color. Be curious and supportive of all your emotions, all the many colors you experience in your life! Embrace the mess and Live Happier!
*names and details have been changed to protect confidentiality