increasing our range

mirror_andrea_bernal.jpg
self-portrait, mirror, Canon Digital Rebel

“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. And how else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven? And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives? When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. Some of you say, ‘Joy is greater than sorrow,’ and others say, ‘Sorrow is the greater.’ But I say unto you, they are inseparable. Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your head board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed. So you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy. Only when you are empty are you at a standstill and balanced.”
– Kahlil Gibran

A friend passed this quote along to me recently and I am moved by its wisdom. There is an odd richness in letting ourselves go to the depths of our sorrow. It really is like carving out space, digging and discovering new territory, creating more space for a future joy. How much are we willing to feel? How much (and what kinds) of emotions are we willing to let ourselves have?

I noticed that in the past couple of years I have been afraid to feel the completeness of my emotions, good or bad, joyous or not. Its as if I was cutting corners on my emotional life, not completely feeling any of it, not surrendering to any of it with my whole heart. It’s as if I was standing at the ocean’s edge, dipping my toe into the water and not diving in, not letting the waves envelope me, cleanse me, for fear of being sucked into the tide. {I think I have been afraid the waves would overtake me and I wouldn’t come back.}

But if you have ever been in the ocean, you know that the waves are only safe if you are willing to dive into them, to surrender to them, to move towards them. It is when we are half there, stiff and resistant that they knock us down and put us through the salt water spin cycle.

I have a lot to learn from my husband Matt. When he gets sick or sad, he lays on the couch and reads fiction or watches episode after episode of the West Wing (literally for days on end) until he feels better. He doesn’t move (hardly speaks) and surrenders completely to feeling bad. After a few days, he is fine and emerges healthy and happy.

When I am sick, I work and I work and I work. I stay busy and distracted and “productive.” And I remain at a low grade of sick or sad for many, many weeks.

I am beginning to see that letting ourselves have our emotions, really touching the depths or heights is the key to healing. It is like we are increasing our range, only to make our voices more stronger and beautiful.

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Hi, I’m Andrea

On this blog you’ll be learning with me how to use our voices, share our creative superpowers and live life in full color.

As an artist, photographer, life coach + mentor, I’m redefining what it means to be a SUPERHERO — ‘cause in my world, it’s got nothing to do with capes, spandex or sidekicks and everything to do with tenderness, intuition & baby steps of bravery.

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46 Comments

  1. Rachel Rhodes

    Oh my goodness, Andrea. You said it. I am the same way and I am currently ill, ill, ill after moving to Paris (my favorite city) to make a home with the man of my dreams. If I don’t learn to relax and just let myself be really ill and sleep as much as I need to, etc. when am I going to get better? There’s only so much modern medicine can fix.
    I am going to bed right now and let myself BE ILL! YAY!

  2. bohemiangirl

    mmm..Kahlil Gibran and his book The Prophet have been with me for years. such wisdom, such clarity he provides.
    carsten & matt deal very similarly with sadness. carsten has definitely taught me how to sit with my pain, rather than run from it. for that…i am so grateful…because you’re right, the healing comes much sooner.
    hugs to you, my friend. you are brave. xoxo

  3. wn

    Funny my husband always does the same too. His whole family does….I come from a family of “suck it up” people. He comes from a family of….”wow, you’re feeling crappy, I’m sorry. Let me know if there is anything I can do.” It was a big adjustment for me to JUST BE. And a couple of times when I attempted it…I actually scared myself with the intensity to which I could feel sad, sick, hurt, angry, jealous. But I also learnt that surpressing these feelings is worse because they never really go away. So, now I am on a much similar path to yours. Letting go and surrendering to what is going on in my life. Embracing it and working WITH IT instead of trying to always immediately hide/minimize/fix it.
    I think this concept is important to share.

  4. Meg

    Beutiful post.
    My dad always says, in a sort of funny way, “if you are sick enough to stay home, you are sick enough to stay in bed,” or “If you stay in bed long enough you’ll eaither get better or die” 😉 In my experianc you almost always get better!! I live by that when I’m sick. I just stay in bed. No tv, no books, no music. Very boring, very checked out, but it’s so wonderful for your soul I think, and it intesifys the getting better. You get what you really need, which is rest.
    Maybe it’s time for a day under the covers! The worlds colors are so much brighter when you emerge.

  5. Shelley Noble

    Such a profound post, Andrea. Such a delicate, rare awareness. Thank you for sharing yourself with us like this.

  6. Lu

    first, I love the portrait. second, i love what you have said here. it is rather true.

  7. dana

    such wisdom. I love the quote, and I especially love your last paragraph. I can now appreciate how allowing ourselves to be honest with our emotions is imperitive to growing as a person. Thanks.

  8. erika

    i
    friggin
    love
    this!
    definitely my fav photo of yours. must get a new lens, still using the kit!

  9. lindsey

    thanks for this, andrea.

  10. la vie en rose

    yes, Yes, YES andrea! this post is so rich and so true. i needed this reminder. i have moments when i let myself really feel. and then i have moments when i get scared and resist surrendering to the deepness of it and all the unknown places and possibilities. thank you for reminding me that i can trust myself…i can trust my emotions and everything they bring with them. the only way we can be empty is to pour it all out and the only way we can do that is to feel, truly feel.

  11. Heather

    This is so perfect, brillirant and so very true. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, they always move me.

  12. Heather

    This is so perfect, brilliant and so very true. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, they always move me.

  13. linda

    Andrea,
    I stumbled onto your site thanks to frenchtoastgirl, I love her site and I now love your site. I perused and saw the pictures of the picnic. I know that elana went on retreat and combined with your picture of the women on the beach I am contemplating doing that with a group of women. I come from a large family and I have three sister who all live away from me. I miss the sisterhood the women in the picture seem to have. I think we have gotten so busy that we no longer bond as women of old did during quilting bees etc. Maybe we need more of that. Your entry about infertility really got me thinking. Again about bonding and our need to share with others. I was thankful for your thoughts, although I have been blessed with four beautiful, intelligent, amazing children your site made me more grateful for them. And my sorrow for you larger. I can’t figure it out either. So many children born into homes where they aren’t cherished and so many homes where they could be. I think we all know women in the same situation and I know us with them grieve for you who don’t yet. I have added you and Matt to my prayers, I know it is a small thing but I believe in it’s power. Keep up the faith and know that God does love you and that it is not Him punishing you. I believe that he doesn’t work that way. I pray your prayers and wishes will be answered and that you will have strength to wait it out. Sending you warm hugs!

  14. Leonie

    i honour your hollowing out, friend.
    xoxo

  15. Julia

    You have said it all….So insightful and wise. Thank you for your unflinching honesty and candor.

  16. teresa

    wow. totally agree with what you are saying. but do you know how hard that is to do? just let go. fall. the risk is overwhelming. i love your post and want to/need remember your valid and true points and thoughts. 🙂

  17. Stephanie

    Hi. I’ve been lurking here a while and enjoy reading your blog. I felt a need to comment on your latest post. A good friend of mine posted the identical quote from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet on her blog this afternoon. After stumbling upon it again on your site tonight, I think maybe the Universe is telling me I need to pay attention to it. Thank you.

  18. MaryBEth

    .Poignant writing Andrea. You hit it with ” stay busy and distracted”
    I do this then wonder why I’m not accomplishing my goals. Yoga for me, is the most powerful act I can do that brings me into a state of just being present , grounded and centered.
    I applaud your courage and candor.
    Namaste

  19. Molly Merrick

    Maybe it’s a gender thing to some degree: Like you, I distract myself from my sadness. Like Matt, my boyfriend throws himself into it head first… and it seems to work in a way I don’t understand.
    I told a counselor once that sometimes I get so sad there’s nothing I can do but sit still when all I want is to be doing something to take me away from it. To my horror, she said that it was normal, and that I *should* just sit with it. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that it could be a good thing.
    As usual with your journal entries… it feels good to know I’m not alone in this

  20. Angela

    thank you so much for this quote.
    it was exactly what i needed to read
    this morning. i find that i deny myself
    joy simply because i’m not sure i can
    handle the sorrow.
    i’ve also loved reading everyone’s comments.
    thanks to you all.

  21. satori

    you take the coolest photos and i just adore your website.
    you are so tuned in and when i take a look at your life i feel like i get a tune-up too.
    keep on doing what you do, your hopes and dreams will come true!
    peace & love to you~

  22. Deanna

    Hi Andrea,
    I often just soldier on through thick and thin not really letting myself feel the bulk of it, sometimes for fear of staying in it if I did.
    Mr Rogers says 🙂
    “If I’m sad about something and I dismiss my sadness by saying. ‘oh, well, it was for the best,’ then I’m probably not willing or able to explore how I’m feeling. If I’m angry with someone and I say ‘I don’t care,’ then I probably don’t know what I’m really feeling. On the other hand, if we adults can allow ourselves to be gentle with ourselves no matter what our feelings may be, we have the chance of discovering the very deep roots of who we are.”
    I will try and assume that position on the couch and just feel it and not get up until I’m ready.
    Letting go is scary because we don’t know where we are going to end up.

  23. Chris

    Wow! What an incredible post. I have long been a believer in finding wisdom everywhere, if I’d only open my eyes and see it. And here it is!
    Thank you so much for the inspiring post!

  24. emily

    These are the days that must happen to you.
    -Walt Whitman

  25. wn

    PS – Andrea, I linked to your post as this resonnated with me. As I’ve indicated, I’ve been going through the same and was also schooled in the same “suck it up” kind of way!

  26. liz elayne

    I always find myself deeply sighing when I come to the end of one of your posts. You always invite me to open my eyes and my heart a bit more. This image of the range…yes. Andrea, you are on an amazing journey…opening yourself up to all the possibilities and learning to heal and grow at the same time.
    (and the west wing episodes while ill. hee, hee. i watch that show over and over and over and can never get enough. how sad i am as the last few episodes are before me. really, i feel like i am losing the white house i wish existed…i could go on and on…but that will be an entry on my blog next month)

  27. Debbie

    My Dear, Even as you boil in your own soup of saddness, you create life. In your attempt to find a place to ease your suffering, you ease that of others. Yes, let your emotions run free like wild horses. Let them graze in new pastures and breath fresh air. Feed them. But also let go of outcome. You’re driving too hard and too fast, drunk with desire. Please pull the car over and let someone else drive (preferably God, who has you in his hands and is just waiting for you to let go of the steering wheel so that he can take over).
    Let go.
    Stop trying to force outcome.
    Come site by the fire and take an inventory of all blessings received to date.
    Try to indulge in pregnancy fantasies with your husband for fun.
    Have faith.
    Please, let go.
    xoxo

  28. jennifer

    i agree with everything you express here. i find myself working on this, or re-remembering it again and again. i just posted something today about my history and struggle with allowing myself a full range of, well, self. and yesterday, i asked for help when i needed to be able to heal, physically, from a surgery. so i’m thinking of your wise husband on the couch. reading this post is like hearing a big “yes, that’s a good thing, to feel and to be gentle.” i need yes’s sometimes. thank you.

  29. Beastmomma

    It is harder to touch the depth, I think because it seems so unsavory. Having been hanging out in the dark depth has given me more appreciation and hope for the possibility that the height will be wonderful. I guess actually that I will even reach great heights again.

  30. Donavan

    This is an unbelievably brave and deep post.
    It encapsulates exactly what I am feeling this very moment, this very life, and it opens me like a spring bud.
    You are awesome.

  31. kristine

    I love this quote as well as the post. I need time to simply let it marinate within the corners of my mind.

  32. Vivienne

    wn, said it in her response…the mentality I see so much of these days is “suck it up – princess” or some variation thereof. Yikes. I suffered from deep depression for many years and actually thought at some points I liked to be sad. In this late morning of my life it’s all changed and I have decided I don’t like to be sad anymore…but when those days come…it does no good to ignore them does it?
    Thanks for sharing that great quote and your musings.
    I need to get more hollow and make space for the goodness.
    love to you.
    V

  33. Christine

    Yesterday I went to see the doctor and he told me that although I’ll have a harder time than most women, I can still bear children, if I want to. One of the sweetest things I’ve ever heard. Today I overheard a conversation between the person I’ve been in love with, and a mutual friend. I learned today that he is seeing someone. I feel numb, shocked, hurt. It was terrible to hear. I wanted to flee, run away, plug my ears and I wanted to stay and hear all the heartwrenching details. I’m afraid to tell my best friends because I’m scared that what they say won’t be enough, so I’m saying this to you. It feels safe to say it here. I feel weak, but I want to be strong. I want to get through this. I asked for it. If there was a choice between having children or having the person I love, I would choose having children every time. I know this is an answer to my prayers, but it hurts a lot right now. I don’t know. I’m still reeling. Thank you for this.

  34. Laura

    This is exactly what I needed to hear, though I didn’t know until I read it, that I needed to hear it. Everyone’s comments are also so enlightening. (Thanks)

  35. kyra

    Wow. Thank you for such a wise and beautiful post. I had a plan to get as much done as possible today to avoid really feeling these frustrating, sad, angry feelings that I’m carrying at the moment. I will try to take some time and sit with them instead. Thank you!

  36. Sergei

    I agree with Molly that such difference in experiencing emotions is defined by gender, at least to some degree. And such difference, I think, comes from the defference in self-centerness (if there is such a word). Men, I think, are more self-centered in general, than women. Therefore, whatever they (men) feel becomes the centerpoint of their (men’s) lives. That’s why you can observe that men are easier to surrender to their emotions. All they care about is how they feel at that particular moment in time, and they don’t like hiding it because of the worry to hurt someone else. Women, on the other hand, often put happiness of the people they love before their own. So when they are feeling sad, they might be hiding it, because they don’t want to sadden their loved ones. When women are happy, they too might be reserved to show their happiness out of the fear to hurt someone else – what if people around me are not as happy and then my open happiness will look as if I don’t care about their problems…
    It is a generalization, and like all generalizations, it is not meant to describe every man and every woman, but rather to show an overall trend.

  37. Patti

    While walking in the rain with my dogs just now, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t want to cook for my husband nor clean the house before company arrives tomorrow morning. Instead, I want to “get into” these painful cramps that I’m feeling from the period that I WASN’T supposed to get today. How many more times do I need to go through getting that damned period?!? So, I get home, think of your site that I hadn’t visited in a couple of weeks, and there it is. Your note about surrending completely. I’m doing it tonight regardless of what others might expect of me or what my conscience tells me. Screw it. I’m going to surrender to this damn period. Maybe it will carve out an ounce of hope for pregnancy next month.

  38. rama

    i am with your husband (and you?) on this. the best way that i have found to overcome a bad feeling is to acknowledge it and ride it out. there have been days even when i paint on a black mustache and act like my own over-the-top evil twin. saying “fuck” a lot becomes hilarious pretty quick.
    this morning though, i read a fascinating article on the history of happiness (New Yorker, February 27, 2006, page 78, “Pursuing Happiness”). among many other interesting things, it said that happiness is a by-product of absorption. that people are happiest when they are experiencing flow and the surest way to lose flow is to think about your own state of mind.
    this seems true to me also. maybe the whole point is that -like the waves you described- we shouldn’t resist our feelings. if we trust that every high and low will pass, maybe we can swim for a goal that’s bigger than our feelings and even enjoy the climbs AND drops along the way.
    just thinking out loud but i hope so.

  39. rama again

    p.s., regarding the different ways that genders experience emotion, i like to think that we are all basically the same but i read something that makes me think otherwise. a transexual described his-to-her experience with male-to-female hormones this way: as a man, he felt like an aircraft carrier cutting his way through the ocean. he felt the waves against his hull but they did not affect his course. as he took female hormones though, he felt his boat shrink and shrink until, eventually, it felt like she was in a rowboat and the waves could sway her very easily. i don’t what that means exactly. i don’t know if it’s better to feel things deeply or to stay one’s course. i don’t know if it’s better to be devoted to one’s self or supportive of others. i don’t know if it’s stronger to be constant or to be willing to change. the differences are interesting though. complimentary probably.

  40. tiffany

    I have a mantra that has changed the way I handle stress, sickness, sadness, whatever threatens to overwhelming me. It is: Give in to the suckiness.
    I used to fight the suckiness. But the harder I tried to push back against it, the worse my day would suck. Because on top of having a crappy day/week/year/whatever, I was also angry about it. Which usually caused me to be grumpy and would tangle things up further and further until I was so frazzled that I had managed to not only ruin my own day but my husband’s as well, which put him in a bad mood and caused my day to suck even more. You see?
    Once I learned to give in, stop fighting, just let things suck for a little while, I found myself a lot less frazzled.
    It still sucks though. I hope you get to experience total joy soon.

  41. Christie

    This is beautiful Andrea. I have been reading here for a long time, and this really moved me. I used to know how to do this, letting myself be with myself, and I needed to be reminded. Thank you.

  42. rani Shah

    I love this. Thanks you and I will most likely hijack this and post on my blog. Your words are so well said. I believe I become stronger after i have really let myself go into my emotions. Again, thanks for the reminder.

  43. susan

    if only we as americans taught our children and our adult selves to allow ourselves our feelings, our down time and acknowledge sorrow, we would be in a much better place.

  44. chinita_jill

    such beautiful words, kahlik gibran’s and yours. i feel the same way. for some reason, i have been “limiting” the emotions i feel. i think it’s because i’ve been hurt once, and i didn’t want to feel the sorrow i have felt before. but after some time, i actually felt sorrow about not being able to fully experience sorrow anymore. (sorrow can be healing, too.) my emotions felt cheated somehow. and because of that, i can’t fully feel happiness, too. it’s time to relearn how to “feel” again. it is then we can live life’s emotions to the fullest.

  45. Danie

    Thank you for your beautiful words! I have been craving to read something that spoke to me and this was it. I have missed your blog ~ been without the internet for way too long. I just wanted to say thanks because i always find such great messages from your entries. Hope all is well 🙂

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