Honoring the Shadows

This weekend I stood beside two of my dearest friends as they pledged to love each other when they’re happy and sad, silly and mad, and for the 36 hour wedding whirlwind I was profoundly present, savoring each little detail as it came into focus around me.

Those of you who know me well know just how much I fight to be present. My mind rarely rests in one place or time, which is why, when we finished the rehearsal dinner and I realized that my mind had remained in the moment nearly all night, I wanted to jump, and dance, and tell the whole world!

This summer has been a crash course in surrendering my desires and ideas of what “should” be happening in order to savor what is currently in front of me. Savor is the word God gave me for 2017, and as soon as I received that word, I knew choosing to live it out would be much more challenging than choosing discipline was in 2016. To be completely honest, there have been large chunks of this year when I ignored the choice to savor because it just. seemed. too. darn. hard.

However, in the past moth I’ve had a breakthrough in my understanding of being present that is too good not to share!

It is as follows: in order to truly savor, you must honor the shadows.

Ryan O’Neal of Sleeping At Last wrote a song last June called “Joy.” In the process of writing it, O’Neal asked his followers on social media how they would define joy, and then he synthesized their answers to write the lyrics. Each line in the song reflects a different angle of joy, but my favorite line defines joy as “the honoring of every shadow.”

As people we’ve gotten too good at numbing and running, believing the lie that the only way to the good life lies in avoiding our pain. But the freeing truth I’ve found is that we don’t have to ignore reality anymore. Suffering and sorrow are unavoidable companions who will join us for segments of our journeys. If we ignore or repress them, they will unexpectedly sneak into situations and distract or even derail us. But, if we can muster up the courage to acknowledge them, we get to experience new depths of joy. Even if our situation hasn’t changed, our perspective is dramatically different.

Before I left for Ellisa and Cody’s wedding, I took some time to grieve a relationship that is not where I expected it to be. I also put time and forethought into how to best care for my quirky and unpredictable body on the trip, and packed a large bag of Kelly-safe food to bring along. I honored my shadows (which take shape in the form of unmet relationship expectations and my continued health struggles) and, in doing so, was released to enjoy the festivities. Sorrow and suffering were still present, but they didn’t clamor for my attention because I had already acknowledged them.

So tonight I want to offer you a challenge. What are the shadows you’ve been pushing to the fringes of your life, and how can you better acknowledge them? I can promise from recent experience that the pain of this acknowledgement is worth it. When, instead of fearing our pain we feel it, we finally get to discover the sweetness of being fully present.