You see, I think Garth Brooks, the great country lyricist, was onto something when he wrote, "Life's a dance you learn as you go: sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow." Sometimes joy leads and pain follows, and sometimes, pain leads and joy follows, but the two must learn to dance in sync together, responding to what the other is doing. Such is life, I've been learning; to be a whole person is to open yourself to both joy and pain. As humans, we naturally embrace joy, but we cringe at pain and seek to shut ourselves off from it, going to great lengths to avoid it. Even to the point that to always be happy is seen as virtuous and enviable. We don't envy people for experiencing and expressing pain. We may admire them, but we don't wish to be them.
But isn't it both, dancing together throughout life, that lends depth and meaning, compassion and grace, wisdom and humility, to our character? I surely don't need to envy anyone's pain; that is sadistic. Nor do I need to admire how "good" they are in the midst of it. But neither do I need to fear pain or shrink from its touch. Whether I like it or not - and let's be honest, who likes pain? - the two are not such unlikely partners after all.
As I approach the two-year anniversary mark of my Papa's death, I feel the energy between these two dance partners heating up within me. Joy and pain, pain and joy. I think of him, and I feel joy leading during the song of his memory. And then, the music changes, pain takes the lead and the dance steps intensify. I cannot think of him without both; indeed, as much as I loathe the pain, I don't want it to be all joy in my heart. I need both in this dance. They substantiate the memory of his life. It is more real this way, more human, to feel both. And so, I let go once more, I open my heart, and I let them have their dance.