Last week in the early morning of November 14, Emily graduated from Primary 6. I attended the graduation ceremony at her Primary school and was as usual quite the emotional parent, dabbing my eyes as I watched her go up on stage to collect her graduation certificate. In the twinkle of an eye, my second child has grown from a scrawny tiny Primary 1 child to a beautiful and confident Primary 6 tween. Where did all the time go?
I was truly deeply happy and it felt like sunshine had finally broken through the clouds of the past few months and was beaming into my life once again.
And yet with light would shadows be cast.
Driving back to work (as the Primary 6s stayed in school to celebrate with their younger schoolmates), the shadows of sadness at what could have been a more complete celebration washed over me. Sadness that I had shut out of my life for the past few weeks and I felt the aching loss once again of my children’s father and of what could have been a different life given different choices and circumstances. I was not just grieving the death of a man, but also the death of potential and what-could-have-beens.
I was surprised for I had not experienced such deep sorrow since his funeral on 3 Sep, indulging only occasionally in a few tears that wet the eyes. The feelings were however more complex. Sadness that was not alone but mixed with joy. And joy that was tinged with sadness.
And the words of Osho came to mind: “Sadness gives depth. Happiness gives height. Sadness gives roots. Happiness gives branches. Happiness is like a tree going into the sky, and sadness is like the roots going down into the womb of the earth. Both are needed, and the higher a tree goes, the deeper it goes, simultaneously. The bigger the tree, the bigger will be its roots. In fact, it is always in proportion. That’s its balance.”
And so it dawned (pun not intended) on me that to have the capacity to feel intense joy, one must be prepared to also have the capacity to feel intense sadness. The brighter the light, the darker the shadow. The intensity of one emotion matched by the intensity of the other opposite and equal emotion (a Newtonian-like 3rd law of emotion perhaps – sorry, that pun I could not help but intend!).
Numbing myself in the past few months hadn’t just led to my losing the ability to write (as I shared yesterday), but it had also striped me of my ability to feel truly deeply madly joyful and happy.
With the knowledge now that every spoonful of joy I choose to partake would come tinged with sadness, I look forward to savouring every sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami drop of life that comes my way. How else would one be able to live truly deeply madly without both the shadow and the light?