In summary, the last few months have been rough.
Cars have needed repair—I’ve had to commute 65 miles to the city twice in pouring rain in one of those cars, that was still broken at the time, to spend a workday at a corporate office.
The weather has been cold and damp enough to make the furnace kick in regularly, insurance premiums and student loans are due, my spouse is beyond busy with projects and the yard is in a state of disarray.
To top it off, I have a two year old. And then the fridge broke.
And then the fridge broke.
Modern life—when you don’t live in a city filled with good Asian or Italian food take out options—is more challenging without a refrigerator.
Yesterday as I was washing the dishes, reflecting—agonizing over—all of the things that have happened in the months preceding “the day the fridge broke” (as my husband took apart the freezer in attempt to fix the fridge while the toddler sang/yelled at the top of her lungs as she ran around half clothed in the middle of the kitchen).
I got to that overwhelmed place, where we all get sometimes, when things start piling up.
And then I started giggling.
I’m not really much of a giggler, usually.
I trend towards being more the stoic Scandinavian type.
The giggling wasn’t very far removed from sobbing, I’m sure, but instead of misery, my life situation evidently wanted a more light hearted coping technique. At least in that moment while my hands were covered in soap bubbles and holding ceramic bowls.
“[Research] points to an alternative approach: a negative path to happiness that entails taking a radically different stance towards those things most of us spend our lives trying hard to avoid. This involves learning to enjoy uncertainty, embracing insecurity and becoming familiar with failure. In order to be truly happy, it turns out, we might actually need to be willing to experience more negative emotions—or, at the very least, to stop running quite so hard from them.” ~ Oliver Burkeman, author of The Antidote
While putting the dishes away and dodging the small body that was darting around the kitchen over discarded fridge parts, it occurred to me that despite the less than ideal circumstances that have punctuated life lately, I can still breathe through the tints of negativity.
I can still stand at the sink and let the uncertainty of life be uncertain and I can still find my breath in the midst of a broken refrigerator.
Happiness is still possible when situations require more energy than we have. Even during external events that we wouldn’t wish on anybody else.
“It turns out that there’s a long tradition in philosophy and spirituality that’s about embracing negativity, about easing up on all of this positive thinking and learning instead to bathe in insecurity, uncertainly and failure, and to find the enormous potential for happiness that’s lurking inside all that.” ~ Oliver Burkeman
I look forward to the day when all parts of the kitchen are back in working order, the cars are running perfectly, my child prefers reading quietly to yelling and I am sitting on the sun-bathed back deck sipping a cocktail instead of in my office slamming coffee.
In the meantime, I can find a semblance of contentment in knowing that all circumstances and the feelings that follow are a part of the whole.
I can remind myself that it is, after all, simply the beliefs that I hold about my life situation that color the events as good or bad.
Without those beliefs, they just are.
And when they just exist, without a label—well, then giggling at the sink when life threatens to overwhelm transforms my experience of living in that chaos and invites enough tranquility to overshadow despair.
Perhaps when we let our experiences—all of them—be what they are, we are more apt to finally see the delight that is lurking just outside of our sight.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Heidi Barr
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock