Recently, I seem to be a confluence of emotions – joy and gratitude bubble up in me one minute; sadness and grief striking me the next. Sometimes they are interchangeable, with one morphing into the other. I work with this play of emotions in my Chinese medical practice with my patients, and yet, I have not always seen it in myself when it is right in front of me. These seemingly opposing emotions are actually aspects of the same experience with their own feelings and sensations. Chinese medical practitioners see these four as the energies of Fire and Metal, and I am steeping in them.
So how are these emotions of joy and sadness, grief and gratitude actually the same? The Chinese symbol of yin and yang shows that within everything is contained its opposite, dwelling together, inseparable one from the other. There is always a grain of one inside of the other. As you look at this symbol you can see the dynamism. There is movement, always one part turning into and becoming the other. And each part containing an element of the other.
The energy of Fire is playful, warm, bright, expressive, embracing, connecting, loving, heartfelt, joyful. It rises and falls in a dance like a crackling fire; it is open-hearted and free, and can be quietly happy. When the light of the fire is snuffed out, or the sun goes behind a cloud; when the connection with another is broken; when playfulness turns to loneliness; then the sadness can overtake the joy. They are all part of the same experience.
The energy of Metal is respectful, grateful; it honors and acknowledges what is. It allows us to see the preciousness of someone or something, the gifts they bring to our life, the values we cherish. When that someone or something is gone – dies or changes in some way – grief may overtake the gratitude. Grief is the acknowledgment of the loss of something that was precious to us, that served us well.
So, as part of this transition I am making, from working to not working, from being part of this community to becoming un étranger in France; from leaving my friends, my children (my heart), my patients, my way of life to explore new adventures, I am caught between different forces. On the one hand, I feel deep gratitude and joy for the incredibly satisfying work I have been blessed to do these past 25 years, for all of the relationships with such unique and special people, the comfort of a home that has been my sanctuary for the past 14 years, and the lifelong dream that is about to come true. On the other, I feel the profound grief and sadness of saying goodbye, of knowing that my life will change in ways that I have yet to understand. I am excited and afraid, happy and sad, looking forward while looking back, wondering what lies ahead and reminiscing about what has been. I am embracing it all as part of the whole of this still-in-progress “wild and precious life.” (Mary Oliver) Moving forward, I will try to remember to look at my emotional responses as constantly evolving and shifting phases of the same experience and take them in stride accordingly. They invite me into the dance of life, back and forth, up and down, and with joy and gratitude, I accept.