The Balancing Act: A Mixed Bag of Emotions

Sunset on TexasThe year of 2013 is almost half over…wow, how did that happen? It seems like only yesterday I was snuggled up in my Christmas hibernation thinking about the coming year…and now that year is six months gone.

For the new year, I chose one word to focus on, to become closer to God through this one word and all of its concepts. My one word was balance. And I have to say, this year has definitely been a balancing act like no other.

Mom and MeMy mother’s long battle with cancer came to a climax and then abruptly ended, leaving me in a sea of confusion, loss and grief. But in the midst of this loss, I realized that all the things that have gone before are truly and forever gone–both the good things and the bad. Every life, however perfect, has shadows of grief and pain mixed with the good. My childhood was no different. In having now lost both my parents, I am no longer bound to these shadows. The slate has been wiped clean. All that remains is love…and the bittersweet taste of grief.

Graduation 2013My third son walked the stage and received his high school diploma, capping off a thirteen-year trek through public school academia, beginning another eight-year trek through the mazes of college and, hopefully, med school. The simple act of him crossing that stage filled my heart with pride, hope–and sadness. Knowing that three of my four sons have crossed that threshold of life into adulthood, filled my heart with longing for the simpler days of their early childhood.

The Gang's All HereI have never been one of those moms who regrets the fact that my kids are growing up. I have strived to thoroughly embrace and enjoy each and every stage of their lives. And to be honest, while I thoroughly loved them as tiny infants, the toddler and early school years drove me bonkers, and I was thrilled to have them move into the high school years. I had a much easier time once we were able to calmly carry on rational conversations without the hyperactivity of normal, healthy boyhood. But for some reason, watching the next-to-last son cross the hurdle of graduation filled me with a longing to go back to those “simpler” days.

A Proud MamaMaybe it was his graduation coming so closely on the heels of my mother’s death. Maybe I was just realizing that I am getting old. Whatever it was, it left me with an intense desire to “do it all over again” that I haven’t felt before.

This is where the balancing act comes in. How do you balance the pain of loss with the joy of futures to come? How do you choose between two emotions that are very real, very valid, and very intense?

The funeralThere are days when I feel truly bereft, lost in a sea of sadness far beyond anything I’ve ever felt. I remember that I can no longer pick up the phone and share my daily events with my mother and I feel empty and alone. Other days, I think of my son’s future years in college–and beyond–and my heart soars with delight for all my children’s dreams. Looking forward to what they will become–as well as the ability to spend some quality time with the hubby–fills me with intense joy.

I am in a season of intense emotional confusion…and I guess that is where I am supposed to be right now. During the middle years of life–when kids are growing and leaving the nest, when parents are aging and passing on to their eternal rest–emotional confusion is to be expected.

New River Gorge BridgeEach day is a bit of a roller coaster ride of emotions and I’m never quite certain which side will win out. Most days I am thoroughly exhausted from wading through the mixed emotions and thoughts in my head. Then I remember…this, after all, is what life is: a mixed bag of thoughts and dreams and emotions and memories and people, good and bad, important and inconsequential. It is the sad that makes the happy…happy. It is the grief that makes the relationship more meaningful. It is the heartache that makes the love more real. Without the contrast of dark and light, bright and shadow, there is no painting worth viewing. Without the contrast of sadness and pain mixed with the joys and laughter, there is no life. Without the balance of the highs and the lows of life, everything is simply bland, mundane, boring.

I recently read a book about the Buddhist technique of mindfulness–a state of active, open attention on the present–which is used in meditation to deal with grief and painful memories. The Buddhists believe that you shouldn’t “run away from” your painful past or grief, but that you should face it, accept it for what it is, embrace it and then move on.

Looking BackI’m not a Buddhist and have very little understanding of most of their practices, but I have to say that this is a very healthy way to approach life. Trying to run away from the pains of this world, gets us nowhere, except into more pain. We must accept the reality of the ever-changing world we live in and realize that much of what happens in this life is out of our hands. When we allow ourselves the “luxury” of grieving, when we allow ourselves to feel the pain and sorrows that we are dealt, we can better embrace the joys that get tossed into the mix of life along the way.

As a Christian, I have a Heavenly Father who longs for me to hand these burdens over to Him. He doesn’t tell me not to feel them, He doesn’t tell me to pretend they don’t exist. He simply wants to bear the weight of the suffering for me. I believe the mindfulness approach is a way to do just that. Once you have faced the emotions, you can hand them over more easily and let them go. If you try to run away from them without understanding what you are feeling or why you are feeling it, you have no ability to “hand them over” to anyone. They will continue to plague your thoughts until you accept that they are a very real part of life on this earth.

Looking ForwardHalf way through this year of 2013, I am still trying to come to terms with what it means, for me, to live a balanced life. But I do believe that the roller coaster ride I have been on these past several months has not been in vain. I believe that all the experiences of life will help me on my journey to find balance in a crazy world. As long as I lean on the Creator of the world, I will find rest in the midst of the storm…I will find balance. It just might not look exactly like what I thought it would!

“Give in to God, come to terms with Him and everything will turn out just fine. Let Him tell you what to do: take His words to heart. Come back to God Almighty and He’ll rebuild your life. Clean house of everything evil. Relax your grip on your money and abandon your gold-plated luxury. God Almighty will be your treasure, more wealth than you can imagine.” – Job 22:21-25 (MSG)

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