The Tracks of Joy and Sorrow

Our memories play tricks on us. We label moments and episodes in our pasts as either happy or sad, joyous or painful. In reality, the joy and the sorrow exist simultaneously. One of them just seems to dominate over the other in that particular memory.

Joy and sorrow does not flip on or off like a light switch. Here is a moment of joy, and now here is another moment of sorrow. No, it does not work like that, not like how our memory thinks of it.

Joy and sorrow are more like the two rails in a railroad track. They run parallel, side-by-side throughout every moment of our lives. If we reflect on a moment as being particularly joyful, it is because we are favoring or leaning more of our weight on the rail of joy. When we feel sorrow, most of our weight is leaning on the rail of sorrow. In both cases, in every moment of our lives, we have a foot on both rails.

[railroad track]

The thing is, sometimes we lean so far over onto the rail of sorrow, it seems like we will never be able to shift our weight back to the center, let alone to the side of joy. Our muscles seem to cramp that way, not allowing us to straighten up.

All the while, our other foot is still on the rail of joy. Little things go by, practically unnoticed because we are stooped over, focused on the pain and our cramped muscles. Little things like a smile from a child, a friend, or a stranger, the blue sky and the warmth of the sun on our face, a cool breeze that brushes the hair off our forehead like mom used to do when we were ill, the busy little pitter-patter of humanity as it rushes by us on a city street or in a crowded hallway, hearing the singing of a bird or our favorite song on the radio, the smell of rain or baking bread or perfume. All of these little joys in life are God’s whispers to us, telling us that it isn’t so bad. I am still with you. All you have to do is take notice. Don’t let the sorrow close your heart. Open it back up. Take a risk. Reach out. Shift our weight ever so slightly. That is all it takes. Just a little shift…

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