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Transactions with Beauty.
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- Shawna

 

 

The Sweetness and the Bitter

The Sweetness and the Bitter

I've been thinking about those who choose sweetness and those who choose to be bitter, and how and why that is. I went in search of wisdom on this subject, and came upon this book that I bought when it first came out in 1992. What a big deal the book was then, but I'm sure I only understood the half of it. Here is Clarissa Pinkola Estés on what she calls the most important psychic decision one makes in mid-life: 

“There is a time in our lives, usually in mid-life, when a woman has to make a decision – possibly the most important psychic decision of her future life – and that is, whether to be bitter or not. Women often come to this in their late thirties or early forties. They are at the point where they are full up to their ears with everything and they've “had it” and “the last straw has broken the camel's back” and they're “pissed off and pooped out.” Their dreams of their twenties may be lying in a crumple. There may be broken hearts, broken marriages, broken promises.” 

― Clarissa Pinkola Estés from Women Who Run with the Wolves

rose with snow

Let's think about sweetness, next. 

 

Sweetness

by Stephen Dunn

Just when it has seemed I couldn’t bear   
   one more friend   
waking with a tumor, one more maniac   

with a perfect reason, often a sweetness   
   has come   
and changed nothing in the world   

except the way I stumbled through it,   
   for a while lost   
in the ignorance of loving   

someone or something, the world shrunk   
   to mouth-size,   
hand-size, and never seeming small.   

I acknowledge there is no sweetness   
   that doesn’t leave a stain,   
no sweetness that’s ever sufficiently sweet ....   

Tonight a friend called to say his lover   
   was killed in a car   
he was driving. His voice was low   

and guttural, he repeated what he needed   
   to repeat, and I repeated   
the one or two words we have for such grief   

until we were speaking only in tones.   
   Often a sweetness comes   
as if on loan, stays just long enough   

to make sense of what it means to be alive,   
   then returns to its dark   
source. As for me, I don’t care   

where it’s been, or what bitter road   
   it’s traveled   
to come so far, to taste so good.

{source}

roses with snow

The bitter moments will come, this is a given. We've all lived through some bitterness, and we'll live through more. But let sweetness come. Even if, as Dunn says, it's only on loan. 

We are here to experience sweetness. The other stuff is inevitable. 

“Resentment, bitterness, and holding a grudge prevent us from seeing and hearing and tasting and delighting.” 

― Pema Chödrön

There is a line in The English Patient that I read when it first came out in the early 90s, and when I was (obviously) younger. I remember being stopped in my tracks by this line. Of course, by now I've seen it played out many times. Here it is:

“There are those destroyed by unfairness and those who are not.”
— Michael Ondaatje

And I've carried this line around with me ever since. What a difference it has made. 

rose and frost
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