I remember about 5 years ago reading this passage in Esther Perel’s book “Mating in Captivity” about Holocaust survivors and that some of them had found a way to thrive after going through that massive trauma. A friend reminded me of this on my IG post this week.
In Esther’s book, she shares about how some survivors had stayed in survival mode and others had thrived. They had found joy. Life. Dance. Play. Sex. They hadn’t lost touch with living. Even after surviving one of the most atrocious events in human history. While others were deeply traumatized, rightfully so, and stayed in pain.
When I am mired in my own pain and sorrow, I try and remember this… “Alexandra. People danced, and sang, and made love, even after being in concentration camps. They found a way out of the sorrow. Get up. Find the light. Dance. Pray. Sing. Write. This is your practice.”
Yeah, maybe it sounds strange to compare my existential pain and loneliness and sensitivity and sadness to their pain. But, maybe not.
I have compassion for each of our Soul’s initiations this life and we all deal with life differently.
As I have traveled the world, I have seen children in extreme poverty, and still dancing and singing and playing and rejoicing in life.
I have been offered food by people who have very little food, but an abundance of joy and love.
As a very wise man reminded me recently: “The soul suffering of the Western mind/body/spirit may be less obvious than the external sufferings of people in other places, but it doesn’t mean it hurts less.” (Paraphrased.)
It would almost be easier if the heartbreak I feel in my heart was visible on the surface, because then it would be easier to explain to others.
But the pain of isolation, loneliness, depression, loss of friends or loved ones, confusion about belonging, or alienation from a sense of community or tribe is often not as obvious as the suffering of a lost limb or living in poverty.
There is physical suffering, mental suffering, heart suffering, soul suffering… and all suffering is valid… even though our modern world often disregards the soul suffering, saying: “Smile, keep going, chill out, you’re fine…”
Which can make our bleeding hearts feel so unseen and alone.
That being said, as my bleeding heart throbs in pain so often, I choose to remember – if little kids in India can find joy after being orphaned, and Holocaust survivors can dance and play and laugh after that atrocity, then even though this world feels chaotic and insane – can we too find the thread of joy amidst and alongside our sorrow?
NOT at the expense of our sorrow.
OR at the expense of our joy.
– BOTH AND –
I feel the modern spiritual cannon of “positive attitude” and “feeling good” and “peaceful mindfulness” is going out of style.
If it doesn’t include our DEEP and MEANINGFUL and WARRANTED sorrow that seems to have existed from the dawn of time as part of being human, then it is not real.
A positive attitude that doesn’t sweep our sorrow into a bear hug with open eyes turned towards the injustices of this world and our own tender spots with a wide-open, bleeding, compassionate heart, is a mask or persona. A cover-up. A half truth.
In my heart, I have hope that those days are finishing. The masks chipped away. The real, full, messy truth exposed.
I believe we are waking up to the reality of expressed and embodied joy and sorrow dancing hand-in-hand as a part of our humanness.
When these things get stuck un-expressed it’s when trouble starts. And so even though it’s VERY uncomfortable, I keep feeling my complex feelings and asking others to join me in this dance that is not figure-out-able in its numinosity and non-linear magic.
And I will keep making those Holocaust survivors, who chose to dance and laugh and make love after that trauma, my role models. If they can do it – I can – and you can handle these times, without bypassing our pain, but radically including it in our lives and our love.
So let us keep
Telling our stories
Swimming in cold rivers
Speaking and sharing
Laughing so hard
Made ya a BORN TO BE ALIVE playlist. Stay alive with me.
Hold close to the light of love, and don’t leave behind your rage and pain, but invite it close, kiss it dear.
I love you.