“What hurts you, blesses you. Darkness is your candle.” ― Rumi
Smiley faces fill our text strings. Countless books beckon us to follow their secret to obtaining happiness. When we bump into a friend at the store who asks “How are you?” she expects us to say, “Good.” Or maybe even “Great!” And yet, we seem to be missing half of the equation.
This weekend Katie Pulsifer, came to our retreat to shed some light on, well, the darkness. Katie believes that to live a balanced life, about half of our emotions should be positive. That percentage struck us all as a bit low. What about the other half? You guessed it, negative. Katie offered a helpful analogy when she asked us to think about the world and all that occurs. We have war and famine and disease and death. We also have art, inventions, natural wonders, and playgrounds. “The light doesn’t exist without the darkness,” Katie explained. The contrast helps us see.
One of the teens summed up Katie’s ideas this way: “What I liked was that when she talked about the 50/50 split. A lot of people think they’re supposed to be happy all the time. Everything is supposed to be all good. In reality, we need the bad to appreciate the good. I struggle because I think I shouldn’t feel sad or mad, but it’s part of life to feel that bad. Without it, I wouldn’t have the good. Everything would just be the same.”
We don’t often approach someone smiling and ask, “What’s right?” Yet, when we see someone upset, we are quick to ask, “What’s wrong?” We wonder how this came to be. Society conditions us to believe that negative feelings are bad. That we best avoid them. Wipe up the tears. Control our temper. Buck up. Instagram asks that we post as many happy, beautiful, funny moments as we can. And, while we’re at it, like everyone else’s. What about the other parts of our lives? The other half that helps us to be whole and balanced? Society would just assume we cover that side up.
Katie wants us to soak in plenty of light, too. She invites us to embrace the hard times, the grit, the uncomfortable, and the sad, so that when we find ourselves in the bright moments, we can feel them. We love the idea of our teens exploring this concept and allowing themselves to feel the range of emotions. And maybe, when they’re ready, tell their friends this deep, dark secret.