A beautiful life is a messy life

Here is what a beautiful life looks like to me.

It’s messy. It’s not all flowers and roses. But there is absolute beauty in mess, especially the mess of our emotions.

I just had my own experience of beautiful grief that I want to share with you.

But before I tell you about my experience, I want you to know something important. Even though our election is what inspired my beautiful grief – this is by no means a post about politics. I am absolutely not advocating for liberal versus conservative. I think both sides have merit and shortcomings.

As you may know from my last post – my grief is that someone with Mr. Trump’s character is now our role-model-in-chief. I’m sad because I want our president – liberal or conservative – to be a fabulous role model, lifting us up and inspiring us to be better human beings. Someone who can show me how to be kind and compassionate even when I disagree. Someone who shows respect to everyone, no matter what – simply because that’s who they are. And so on. That’s my grief. I don’t care which side of the political fence you’re on and that’s not the point of this post.

I hope you’ll keep reading whether you’re a Trump supporter or not, because this post is not really about the election – it’s about how to handle disappointment of any kind. Maybe it’s a divorce, job loss, big argument with someone close to you  – whatever disappointment or loss you’ve had or will have – this is for you.

We got the news in Venice

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So here’s my experience. I was on vacation in Venice, Italy when we got news of the election results. Because of my concern about Mr. Trump’s character, I was shocked, then angry and then sad. But nonetheless, I thought I could just enjoy my time in Venice and not let my emotions out. So I tried to stuff how I was feeling.

Sure enough, I found my energy draining and my chest and stomach were getting tight and in knots. I found myself getting grumpy. Sadness was taking over my body. But I still felt the need to keep it together, and in so doing, this tightness colored my last two days in Italy.

It wasn’t until I got home that I felt I had the time and space to let down. I sobbed my guts out – and released the tightness, energy drain and sadness. My sobbing was a beautiful thing. I felt a catharsis afterwards.

Am I all finished after one sob session? Probably not. There will be more and I’ll let them come as they need to. I’ll give other emotions the space to be. And when the sobs are done they’ll be done. I can’t hurry them.

A beautiful mess

So where’s the beauty in this? Isn’t beauty about seeing a great piece of art or listening to rapturous music? Isn’t beauty seeing a field of flowers, or falling in love? Isn’t beauty about positive things?

Yes, but that’s not all. Beauty is those things, for sure, but it’s about so much more. It’s the raw mix of life that is so beautiful – happy, sad, angry, loving – all of it. It’s giving yourself the freedom – the joyous freedom – to feel how you feel, whatever that is.

When I got home from Venice, my inbox was flooded with emails about how to be all spiritual and elevated in the face of election disappointment. You know, find a way to see the good. Hold positive thoughts, don’t get taken down by negative emotions and so on.

Forget it. Not now. I’m not ready. I’m in the mud. What I really want to do is throw plates, so I’m not ready to be elevated.

When my grief passes, when my anger subsides, then I’ll be ready for finding the good, and I will, indeed do that. I am not interested in wallowing around in negative feelings. But this is too new, too raw, for me to quickly do an emotional U-turn. And as I discovered, it’s not healthy for my mind or body to try to stuff my feelings so I can feel better before I’m ready.

I have to let my emotions ride on through. If I don’t, it’s like overstuffing a garbage bag. Pretty soon the bag breaks and heaven knows – now I have a mini explosion and garbage strewn all over the place. That’s what happens when I try to deny how I feel.

I’ve discovered that when I let myself feel what I feel, everything feels more crystal clear because I’m not covering over with stuffed feelings. I know when I’m denying how I really feel when I tell myself I should feel better, or I should feel differently or I should do this or do that. A life of “shoulds” is an emotionally dishonest life.

I know that real joy comes from being myself and feeling what I feel.

It’s the same in a relationship. You want to give your partner the freedom to be real, too. I have quoted Buddhist author Stephen Levine many times. For my book, Simple Loving, I asked him about his marriage to his wife Ondrea. He said, “When you’re in a relationship, you’ll have to accept that you’ll swim in the reservoir of your partner’s grief. For most people, as soon as the other person’s grief comes up, they withdraw and say, ‘she’s too neurotic,’ or ‘he’s too negative,’ and so on.

“These things that draw people apart in an unconscious relationship are the gems that draw them together in a conscious relationship.”

Beauty is not afraid

Beauty is not afraid, not afraid to feel. It is often out of the ashes of despair that our souls and our creative energy are unleashed. We’ll never get there by stuffing ourselves into emotional straitjackets.

Think about the beauty that has come from some of our greatest composers. Often they experienced immense personal trials. Take Beethoven as an example.

First, listen to this short piece of music from him. It’s Moonlight Sonata

Now that’s beautiful! But it was his disease, deafness, isolation and poverty that led him to write his impassioned and heart-breaking compositions.

I have no idea how my own heart and soul will soar after I go through my process of grief, but I know they will soar. I’ll see solutions to things I can’t see now. When I’m ready and when you’re ready, a friend referred me to a good book titled, The Gentle Art of Blessing: A Simple Practice That Will Transform You and Your World, by Pierre Pradervand. The author went through incredible hardship, and then learned how to channel his anger and grief into blessings.

There are a million ways to flourish after grief. There are loads of organizations you can volunteer for – places that exist to try and make our world better.

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I know a couple who lives in the US who are saddened and angered by the results of our election, so they’ve decided to pursue their romantic dream of moving to Italy and buying a crumbling villa to rehabilitate – their beautiful mess. They’ve had this dream for a few years but it was always on the back burner. They’ve decided that now is the time to make the move. Bravo to them for letting romance and beauty be their guides!

I don’t know what your dreams are. Maybe you can use this time to go after them. In the meantime, salivate a little on this romantic, crumbling Italian villa, and let it inspire you. There truly can be sublime beauty and romance arising from grief!

5 comments

  1. I love your spirit I love your truth and it is so true that we are ashamed sometimes of acknowledging that we are not ready for what everybody says we must move into, when it is time to grieve let us Grieve! When it is time to move on Move on but grief cannot be shortcircuited and thank you for unfolding it so magnificently reminding me of how my own journey unfolded when I grieved for the baby I lost in pregnancy 8 years ago. As somebody said to me ” oh sorry she left before she arrived” and I said “no she was here, she was alive inside of my body” The journey can end so beautifully romantically as I also started a support group thereafter which brought about healing. Like the moveto Italy!!! Wow thankyou for the point of light about how we run away from our spouses griefs instead of drawing closest to them. I shall watch out for that.I tell you, you have saved many marriages by quoting that. Awesomeness!!

  2. Bonnie, so sorry about the baby.
    I am so annoyed when people expect that you should just “get over it”. Grief takes time. You can’t just snap out of it. I have heard miscarriage, loss of pets, loss of health, loss of job, country going to hell in a hand basket, etc. just downplayed. If you just snap out of it things are bound to get ugly later. I think I will just sob on for a bit until I get it out of my system.

  3. Where can I find a community of people like you? I balled my eyes out in grief on Wednesday, but I am surrounded in my town with Trump supporters, and thus feel isolated. This is a beautiful post. Thank you.

  4. Hi Janet,

    I wanted to send you a personal note about your latest post, A Beautiful Life is a Messy Life. I woke up last night and could not stop worrying about the outcome of the election and the choices being made for our country. I’m not over my disappointment and am not going to try to brush this aside too soon.Thank you for giving me permission to grieve a while longer.

    I had saved your email to read when I had a quiet moment and could not believe my eyes when I read about the couple quitting their jobs and moving to Italy. Why? Because my husband and I did the same thing – August 2001 – May 2003. Yes, just two weeks before 9/11.

    For 21 months John and I lived our dream. We also accomplished other dreams by simplifying our life; John completed his education, and I became a writer.

    If we had not made this move when we did, I’m sure my life would be much different than it is today, and not in a good way. We have an 11-year-old son now, and are trying to instill in him that things are not the goal. People, relationships and a sense of community are where our happiness comes from.

    Thank you again for your timely post
    Many thanks,
    Martha

  5. A beautiful life is not messy, It is true. Here are some valuable quotes which completely satisfies life concept –
    “While contemplating on the objects of the senses, one develops attachment to them. Attachment leads to desire, and from desire arises anger.”
    “Those, who are alike to friend and foe, equipoised in honor and dishonor, cold and heat, joy and sorrow, and are free from all unfavorable association; those who take praise and reproach alike, who are given to silent contemplation, content with what comes their way, without attachment to the place of residence, whose intellect is firmly fixed in me, and who are full of devotion to me, such persons are very dear to me.”
    I had taken these quotes from Bhagavad GITA

    Have you Gone Through “Bhagavad GITA”, Read it, life becomes beautiful not messy.

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