My guys gave me a birdbath on my birthday. We immediately set it under the apple tree, and I’ve watched it all week for activity. Wake up, go to the window, look for birds. Make coffee, look for birds. Do dishes, look for birds. Look for birds, look for birds, look for birds!
This morning as I loaded the dishwasher, I heard the cry of a Blue Jay. I ran to the window, and behold! A beauty on my birdbath!
Rather than bask in the moment, I grabbed my phone and zoomed in for a picture. I wanted to document the first bird spa visitor. And… I was honestly worried I wouldn’t get this chance again.
There’s a current of scarcity running through life. The good things are wonderful, but the bad things are darn-right devastating. And it doesn’t help that our brains are better at recalling the bad!
It’s difficult to allow the full range of human emotions, and a challenge to accept the uncertainty of it all! Sometimes, it’s excruciating to sit in goodness. We know why pain feels awful, but why is it uncomfortable to feel joy?
When we have experienced loss, as we all have, the happy stuff can feel precarious. We try to protect our hearts. We imagine if we don’t fully let the joy in, we might somehow safeguard ourselves against the inevitable loss of it. We mitigate our happiness in order to feel… happy. Hmm.
It doesn’t work. We can’t protect ourselves from pain by tempering happiness. What we must do is find the courage to sit in the discomfort of joy. One way we can do that is by practicing gratitude.
Allowing ourselves to drink in moments of piercing beauty, accompanying them with an expression of thankfulness, is bold in the face of scarcity. We are saying YES! to the full human experience.
I’m using the example of the birdbath today, but I have a deeper struggle going on, involving the loss of some relationships, and the deepening of others. We all have areas where we’re resisting painful feelings. We long for comfort and certainty. We need safety and security, love, compassion, and care.
There’s no way to open our hearts to goodness while protecting them from pain. We simply can’t. What we can do is actively move through even the most vulnerable feelings with helpful practices like gratitude and self-compassion.
The next time I feel a bubble of glee drop over my being, I’m going to let it soak me. With open eyes, and a hand on my heart, I’ll lean into joy mixed with fear. I’ll respond- I’m grateful.
Resource- Brené and Oprah discuss the vulnerability of joy here.
Writing about gratitude on Sundays