Pain and Happiness. They are almost identical if they are grounded in truth in how we should react to them.
The month before my Mom died, she came to live with my family and I. It was a hard and stressful month. I can send you transcripts from my therapy sessions if you want to know the details, but let’s just say I didn’t show up as my best self during those 45 days. Sometime over the next 9 months I read a quote that said “Everything can change in an instant. Everything. And then there is only before and after.” I don’t know who said it, but if I did, I would send them a handwritten thank you note (and you guys – I NEVER send thank you notes, you can ask my Mother-in-Law). I would use my very favorite pen and write these words on the finest stationary I could find:
“Thank you for this life changing, mind-blowing, soul altering, fucking truth bomb!”
Over the 9 months after Mom died, I started to realize that out of the many, many mistakes I made while she was living with me, the most horrible one was that I was not able to filter out all of my judgements about how she was living her life – my anger, frustration, bitterness, hurt – to be able to just sit with her in her pain. The day before she died, she said to me “Kellie, everyone deserves to have a person. You are my person right now.”
Now here is where I would like to tell you that because of my therapy and the fact that I am such a good person and always see the best in everyone and am an outstanding daughter, here is where I wish I could tell you that I grabbed my Mom and hugged her and said “Of course Mom. I will always be your person. I love you so much and will ALWAYS be here for you!”
I WISH I could say that. But the truth is, I really shit the bed in this very moment. What I actually said to her was “Mom, you are right, everyone deserves to have a person, but right now I have to be your caregiver. I have to make sure you are safe and take care of yourself. I can’t be your person right now. But I love you.”
And she died the next morning.
That is the instant that changed everything. For the rest of my life, there will always be BEFORE I broke my Mom’s heart and AFTER. You see, it’s not up to us what the course of someone’s life takes. While we can care for them and help and support and provide shelter, bottom line – we are not God. So all of the energy that I was using to make sure Mom stayed alive was just wasted energy. It wasn’t up to me. What was up to me was how I chose to show up for her. And in that instant, I chose wrong. Worst decision of my life. Why did I let all of my judgements blind me to the one real truth – I loved this woman with every inch of my heart. Bottom line – that is all that really mattered. If I could have just been there for her to sit with her in her pain – without judgement, without resentment, without anger, without bitterness, without ego – would it have changed the outcome of that day? Probably not. But it would have changed the time before and after that life changing instant.
So fast forward 9 months and I am faced with an equal but opposite situation. Sister, Brother and I get an email from dad saying that he is in love with a woman who is half his age. She makes him laugh. She makes him happy. She takes away his loneliness. (Did I mention that half his age is actually 10 years younger than me?). So here is where I would say – WTF? It’s too soon! Are you crazy? This is so cliché! Are you out of your mind? Do I have to call her “mom”?
But I didn’t.
I did for my dad what I wasn’t able to do for Mom. I took away all of my judgements and feelings and I sat with him in his happiness. Bottom line – she made him happy and took away his loneliness. What more could I want for my dad?
So this is when I realized that maybe Pain and Happiness and how we react to them are actually the same. Pain and Happiness look different, feel different and are wrapped in different packages for every single person. We all judge based on our own history, experience, baggage, etc. It’s human nature and normal. But if we are aware of these judgements, maybe, just maybe, it will be easier for us to move that shit aside, filter out the judgements and thoughts and feelings and just sit with our people in their pain and happiness, then maybe – just maybe that’s enough to help – just a little bit. That feels right.
Wow –if we can do this for our people – stop questioning their happiness and stop questioning their pain and stop questioning why they are doing things and just sit with them in their happiness and pain – how amazing would that be?
It’s a game changer!
If we really all could take away those filters of judgement and love on them and wish for them true happiness and sit with them in their true pain, that would go so far in making this world a better place. In connecting us as humans. In linking us as women.
Pain and Happiness live in the “Brutiful” space that Glennon Doyle talks about in her book “Carry on Warrior” – the Brutal and the Beautiful.
Even if your person’s pain or happiness causes you stress or anxiety or frustration or anger, you don’t need to tell them about it. You just need to be happy for them or sit with them. And then find someone else to tell your stress and anxiety to. That might be the most helpful thing for your people. Might I suggest a good therapist?
Penelope "Penny" Provenzano:
She was beautiful but didn't see it. She was strong but didn't know it. But more than anything, she LOVED well. She loved her kids. She loved and adored her six grandkids. They lit her up. She had a unique ability to make each one of them feel like they were the most precious thing on earth. Because to her, they were.
Penny, Mom, Grandma - she was love in human form.