In life, there are cycles of good and bad. Times when our lives seem joyful and easy, and times when we’re struggling through what seem like endless difficulties. Then there are times when the two seem to co-mingle. These are the times I call bittersweet. Perhaps you’ve had a bittersweet period in your own life?
Usually it begins with something wonderful, followed immediately by something awful. You get a great promotion at work, then your spouse loses his or her job. Or you finally start making progress on your new fitness regime, and you pull a muscle, putting you out of commission for a week or two. A new baby is born into your family, and then a loved one passes away suddenly (or sometimes not so suddenly).
Currently, I find myself in a bittersweet period of my own. My husband and I recently purchased our first home. This has been a dream of ours for years, and we’ve worked hard to make it happen. Finally the dream came true, and we moved into our new home less than two weeks ago, eager to begin a new phase of our lives.
Then the hammer dropped. In the same week, we received news that two family members have been diagnosed with cancer. My husband’s uncle, and my mother (who also just moved into our new home with us).
During the years I’d fantasized about what it would be like to have our dream of homeownership come true, I never expected a dark shadow to be cast over the joy of our new situation. Somehow, I thought it would be smooth sailing once the hard work was done and we achieved our goal.
For the first few days after we received the bad news, I felt somewhat indignant toward the powers that be. Why now? Why couldn’t we just enjoy the experience of our new home ownership, and deal with the bad stuff later? Yes, I admit, such thoughts are selfish, not to mention futile. Life doesn’t work like that, and the universe doesn’t revolve around our wishes. There will always be difficulties to work through, regardless of what else is happening in our lives at the time. We simply have to carry on, because there is nothing else to do. Still, I felt like a petulant child, pouting because pain, fear, and uncertainty had chosen this moment to knock on our door.
A few nights later I was feeling restless, unable to concentrate on anything. I was afraid for my loved ones, worried that the cancer may have spread, wondering what was going to happen. Finally I decided to sort through some still-unpacked boxes to take my mind off my worries. It was late and the house was silent and still when I crept out to the garage. I began quietly sorting through a box of miscellaneous items when a wave of weariness came over me, and I sat down heavily on a folding chair to collect my thoughts. In the grip of despair, I reached out with my heart and mind to the universe, seeking, asking for…something. Comfort? Strength? Reassurance? Guidance? I don’t even know what I needed at that moment, I just reached out wordlessly from my soul, hoping to get a response that made everything all right again.
Suddenly my attention was pulled to an item resting just inside the top of the box I had been sorting through. It was the corner of a greeting card I had tossed into the box in the haste of packing. I reached out and pulled on the corner of the card, and as it emerged from the box, I saw that the front of it featured a bouquet of flowers and the words, “thank you”.
A flood of warmth washed over me then, flowing through every fiber of my being, clearing my mind, lifting my heart, refreshing my spirit. Yes. THANK YOU! That was the answer I had been seeking.
There, in the cool, quiet garage, I finally understood that the dark shadow that had been cast over our lives didn’t have to blot out our joy. Do we despair when clouds blot out the brilliance of the sun? No. We simply continue on with our lives, working, playing, laughing, loving. The bitter CAN co-exist with the sweet.
I realized that it’s a matter of perspective, as are so many things in life. It’s true that bitterness has the power to taint sweetness, but it’s also true that sweetness can ease the intensity of bitterness. It just depends on which angle you focus on. Thankfully, the universe found a way to remind me that I have a choice, and I began focusing more on gratitude and joy again.
The next morning, my husband and I had some errands to run, and as we drove along a street we’ve traveled numerous times, I saw a side street that I’d never noticed before. I glanced up at the sign and saw that the street name was “Bittersweet Lane.” Honestly, it didn’t look like a bad place to live. 🙂