In a week where I thought I would be launching my new book Lead In, nature had other plans.
I live in in northern NSW where we’ve had more than 700mls in 24 hours, and catastrophic flooding in homes and towns nearby. While my home is outside a direct flood path, many of my neighbours have not been so lucky.
This morning there was a break in the rain and I ventured out to assess the damage. A whole bridge has been wiped out – locking out everyone on one side of the creek/raging inferno who now can’t leave. Hill slides have made some roads and housing precarious. Friends in Lismore and Mullumbimby have lost everything. And all this in the shadow of accelerating climate change, ongoing covid – and Ukraine.
I met one of my neighbours at a particularly hairy rock slide blocking the road. She is on the other side unable to get out, and not sure how to get food and supplies in (We hatched a plan so all good). She was sharing her devastation of the flood toll at her place, and then stopped herself with “at least I’m not in Ukraine.” I could see her pushing down her own feelings of loss because of this greater problem of war that trumped her own concerns. (And how often do we each do this?) I reminded her that it’s ok and normal to feel upset and worried about what had happened to her, even in the face of larger suffering. That we can hold 2 things at once – personal loss and sadness – and – know that it’s not on the scale of a war. One doesn’t cancel the other out.
In these bloody difficult and stressful times we face moments every day where it’s important and right to hold many different feelings. When we try to triage our experiences into some kind of hierarchy, we never let ourselves feel and honour what we are actually feeling. There will always be something that trumps our own pain – yet not acknowledging our fear or feelings doesn’t help us. It puts up a concrete barricade that stops us being fully human.
This goes for feeling happy and joyful too, when you know others are suffering. Robbing ourselves of experiencing deep happiness and joy doesn’t help anyone. Again, we can hold personal feelings of joy – as well as grief, empathy or worry about what’s happening in the world. In fact, expanding to hold these seeming opposites makes us more open and present to then serve others.
How do you hold conflicting emotions? Do you hold them – or does one get squashed?
Thanks for reading – and next week, when the floods subside, I’ll be back with book news. They have arrived, 100s of pre-orders packed – and I’m just waiting for roads to be passable to be able to post to you!
Till next week,