Learning to feel content
Sometimes I find myself looking at my friend’s lives and feeling utterly jealous.
I look at my friends who are married, pregnant, have gorgeous kids, great careers, travel to exotic parts of the world without worrying about wheelchairs and health issues.
We are taught in life to be grateful for what we have, to feel content with our situation and to love who we are, just as we are. I like to always be able to find the positives in life. I strive to be content and to rise above jealousy when it rears its ugly head.
I was truly surprised the other day when I felt my stomach knot up and the air leave my chest when I saw a beautiful friend of mine who is happily married, and pregnant. The emotional reaction was swiftly knocked out of me by reason and cognition kicking in and bringing me back from the brink of tears telling me “DON’T be jealous and selfish, you are supposed to be happy for your friend!!! This is beautiful and wonderful, and it is NOT ABOUT YOU.”
I feel I need to stop right there and make it clear that I definitely am very happy for my friend just as we are all happy for our loved ones when they are happy. What I struggle with is those first few seconds when I couldn’t breathe because of the massively emotional reaction and not just that I had that reaction but more so that I feel racked with guilt for having it.
The questions started pouring through my mind. Does that reaction mean that I am not genuinely happy for my friend? Does it mean I am jealous? Envious? Does it make me a bad person?
This brings me to what I see as the crux of the issue and the point of this blog. Is it possible for both to be equally true at the same time? And isn’t contentedness about acknowledging your situation, however imperfect and choosing to be happy with it just as it is?
Whether it is disability or other circumstances, the fact is that life is unpredictable and what we envision our lives to be like when we are young doesn’t always turn out the way we expect. And sometimes this is painful. Sometimes we need to grieve things lost and give ourselves space to acknowledge and process these things.
Contentedness isn’t a static state; it is a constant work in progress. It is also possible to feel sadness and happiness at the same time.
There are so many expectations placed on us by society and having to always be composed, is one of them. Let’s face it, though, we all feel. We all have ups and downs, so why is it that it is fine to show your ups but not your downs? Truth is, in this situation I felt like a bad person and that came down to a belief that happy and positive and grateful are ok, but grief and sadness aren’t.
Certainly, in this situation where I felt both at once, I felt I was meant to push that sadness right back where it came from and just be happy. I love my friends, and I am truly over the moon when they are pregnant and married. I am also sad that I don’t have that…and I may or may not ever have that.
I was “happysad”.
One emotion doesn’t cancel out the other but one is much more socially acceptable than the other. It wasn’t until I stepped back from the guilt and acknowledged the sadness though, that I could feel the happiness.
Contentedness and positivity are “works in progress”, and while it seems counterintuitive, sometimes it takes letting yourself feel the lows to get back to the highs. It is hard to do this though and indeed hard in situations where we have mixed emotions. ‘Repressed’ far too often leads to ‘depressed’.
Far too often we don’t share our struggles, weaknesses or negative feelings because we are bombarded by messages saying we need to always be positive, grateful and content. It is unrealistic to expect this all the time, though, especially seeing as to truly be content we need to be real, and real means acknowledging the ups and the downs and coming to accept and love who we are, where we are.
Note: Sometimes its good to talk to a therapist about your feelings & struggles about this kind of stuff. Having a disability or illness that affects every aspect of your life, is a pretty big deal! Read more about therapy: 5 Tips for Starting Talk TherapyHow do you cope with situations that make you “happysad“? Share with us so we can all learn new ways of coping!
I’m Jo, an adult living with a severe connective tissue dysplasia. My condition means I permanently rely on a wheelchair to move about. I’m a qualified Social Worker and work for Fighting Chance running LifeX, a social and mentorship initiative. I’m passionate about writing, blogging and motivational speaking and I am a ‘Don’t DIS my ABILITY Ambassador’ You can read more of my writing on my blog.