“I just want to surround myself with happy, positive people”. I’ve said this sentence many times over the past few years, and have heard it echoed in conversations with friends too. And it sounds reasonable enough. After all, who wants to be surrounded by a bunch of negative sad sacks? Nobody I know.
But deeper reflection has shifted my perspective. For the first time I sense some fear lurking below those words. What are we really saying? Could it be that we are leery of an encounter that might create a squirmy sensation? Are we concerned that we can’t cope with emotions that fall outside the scope of perky?
What are the consequences if we try to restrict our exposure to the diversity of human expression? Where does the friend who’s been bereaved fit in? Grief isn’t terribly cheerful. How do we relate to the person grappling with a challenge that we know will spur them on to greater things if they can just get through the groan zone? Turn away because they’re tired and a tad discouraged? What about the contrarians who always manage to challenge our entrenched ways of thinking, irritating as they can be?
I’ve decided to hit the eject button on this particular point of view. Now it feels limiting and flat, rather like saying, I only want to be comfortable. Life is rich and presents us with so many scenarios, some of which are anything but idyllic.
Now I don’t mean we should push ourselves out on unstable emotional ledges or that we shouldn’t try to discern what supports us in creating a healthy, fulfilling life. I don’t advocate hanging out with bullies or people who we know bring us down for one reason or another. I do mean that expanding our willingness to step out with greater curiosity and more confidence in our ability to handle what emerges can enrich our lives. What if we embraced it all–the pleasure, the vicissitudes, the euphoria, the boredom, the serenity, the laughter and silliness, the earnest effort, the empathy for others, the attraction, the confusion, the challenges, the passion, the fun… You get the picture. What if we cultivated the grace and equanimity, strength, capacity, and resilience to dance with it all? What might be revealed?
So, shall we waltz, tango, shuffle, jive, hustle, foxtrot, boogie, cha cha, skip, samba, two step…