I feel like I complain kind of a lot. I get disappointed and frustrated fairly easily. And I pour out these disappointments and frustrations on the internet fairly often. At least that’s how it seems to me. So I find it surprising that people still make comments about how I’m always positive. They want to know how I do it.
The answer is simple. I don’t.
Seriously, though. I’ve been thinking about it, and the reason I’m always positive is because I’m not. And I know that sounds confusing. I guess a better way to say it is that the reason I am able to be positive is because I don’t stay that way.
It’s because first, I feel the feelings. Then second, I regroup. I bounce back. I rally.
It’s not at all that I’m always positive, but rather it’s just that I’m really good at rallying. And I think the reason I’m good at rallying is because I let myself feel the feelings first.
Just before I started writing this post, I was looking around my room trying to figure out exactly how to say what I wanted to say, because of course all the best inspiration comes from staring at walls. In this case, however, I really did get some help from the walls. Well, I got some help from my calendar, but my calendar hangs on the wall so I think it still counts. Anyway, being that it’s the last day of September, it seemed like a good time to actually read this month’s quote. Here’s what September says…actually here is what someone named David Whyte once said:
The task is not to live a life in which we never have our heart broken. The task is to become larger with each heartbreak.
Life is full of heartbreak. Sometimes it seems like that’s all there ever is. Heartbreaks, letdowns, roadblocks, disappointments. But these heartbreaks, letdowns, roadblocks, and disappointments only exist because we first have wishes, hopes, goals, and expectations. And these are good things.
It is possible to never be let down in life, to never be disappointed. It’s possible to never feel heartbroken. You just have to never care about anything. Easy.
Easy, sure. But if you don’t care about anything, what is even the point?
I’ve tried not caring before. I thought it would be easier. I thought I was protecting myself, because after enough losses, after enough spirit crushing setbacks, sometimes it seems easier to just not care. If I don’t care what happens with my health, then so what if things get worse instead of better? If you’re not invested in your job, then what’s the big deal if someone isn’t happy with your work? If you distance yourself from the important people in your life, then they don’t have to take on your problems and you don’t have to take on theirs. That’s just better for everyone, right?
Not caring is exhausting. So is pretending not to care.
Caring is exhausting, too, actually. It means living through the heartbreaks, letdowns, roadblocks, and disappointments, and these are exhausting. But it also means learning through these things, growing through them. And it also means opening yourself up to purpose and connection, excitement and fulfillment. And joy. Caring creates joy.
Then when caring hurts, which it will sometimes, feel it. Feel the sadness and the sorrow. Feel the frustration and the grief. Feel all the feelings. And remember that you’re feeling them for a good reason. You’re feeling them because you had hope. Or because you made yourself vulnerable. Or because you allowed yourself to dream. Or because you took a risk. You’re feeling them because you were brave enough to be hopeful and vulnerable, and to dream. Because you were brave enough to care.
And sure, you can pretend not to care. You can carry on without feeling the feelings, but then you’ll have nothing to learn from. You’ll have nothing to grow and change through. Those feelings that you denied won’t go anywhere and instead they will start wearing you down. My calendar says the task is to become larger with each heartbreak; well you can’t become larger through heartbreak without first feeling heartbreak. And you can’t feel heartbreak without first caring about something.
Those times that I tried not caring, I did so because I was miserable, and trying not to care only made me more miserable. It didn’t make it possible to be positive all the time. In fact, it made it pretty much impossible to be positive any of the time. Some things are worth caring about; they’re worth the sadness, sorrow, frustration and grief. And the reason I’m able to rally, the reason I’m able to be positive any of the time, is because these same things are worth rallying for.
So care. And then feel the feelings. But try not to give them too much power. And then pick yourself back up. Regroup. Rally. Come up with a new plan. Because if it’s worth caring about then it’s worth rallying for. Because you’re worth both. Because so many things in life are.
And then, start all over again.
Care. Feel. Rally.