Between Our Steps reusable02
I know a couple of people who seem to enjoy complaining. Maybe enjoy isn’t the right word, because they are expressing negative emotions--frustration, anger, dislike. But complaining is such a constant in their conversations that it seems to be their chosen mode of interaction; they seem to enjoy it. And they are people who are generally content with their lives.

Generally, I don’t think of negative emotion as conducive to happiness. Naming things around us as not right surrounds us with things we are not happy with and weighs us down with trouble.

Not that I think we should name something that is troubling or bothersome as good. That just hides the issue from us. But there is a difference between noticing a problem while letting it go and holding on to it, letting it shape our consciousness.

There are things that are so troubling they can shut us down, block our movement. For many, the issue of climate change can be like that. With the hurricanes Fiona and Ian, with last summer’s heat dome and atmospheric river, there are fewer people who doubt that climate change is real. But once we acknowledge the reality, the size of the problem can make us feel that there is nothing we can do about it. We end up stuck.

We can also get stuck with a problem we are determined to solve. There is an issue or a breakdown that we really need to fix. We work at it without success, go away, and come right back to it. I’m like that with something I can’t find that I know is around somewhere. I look where it should be. I look where it might be. I look where it shouldn’t be. I give up. But the need to find the item remains an obsession in my mind. I can’t actually let go. It bothers me that I should know where the thing is but can’t find it. I start looking again.

Enough about negativity. I was prompted to think about the stuff that draws us down by a quote I came across from the Persian poet Hafiz, a mystic who wrote in the fourteenth century.  The poem begins, “I sometimes forget that I was created for joy. My mind is too busy. My heart is too heavy, heavy for me to remember that I have been called to dance the sacred dance for life. I was created to smile, to love, to be lifted up, and lift others up.”

Pause to think about that. We are all made for joy, for dance. The poem then ends with a prayer, “O sacred one, untangle my feet from all that ensnares, free my soul that we might dance and that our dancing might be contagious.” The word “untangle” is what caught me. When I am obsessing over what I cannot find, I definitely need to untangle myself.

A part of me worries about denying reality. For example, it is terrifying that the Russian annexation of parts of Ukraine set up the conditions that could trigger nuclear war. The leader of Russia needs to be untangled from his ambition. But, at least for the moment, the leader of Ukraine needs to let go of his commitment to keeping the borders of Ukraine whole, including Crimea. Both men cannot win their ambitions. Someone has to let go.

But I can’t do anything to help there. And it is a worry that is shared by people who do have influence. I could let this threat be a shadow over my days. Or I can remember that “I was created for joy” and spend my time appreciating the world around me and living in a way that makes joy contagious.

Cathy Hird lives on the traditional territory of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation


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