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CHASING DOWN THE MUSE:Balance heartache and sorrow with joy

“You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.”

A mournful sound wrenched at my heart, twisting and turning it and leaving an empty ache. The fire engine’s siren as it moved down 6th Ave. had set the dog next door to wailing, a deep-throated, unhappy sound. The sorrow’s ache remained.

The dog simply echoed something sad in my own heart, something I couldn’t quite shake in spite of the fact that it was a beautiful day.

Since my arrival five weeks ago, there have been many beautiful days and many dark, gray, challenging days. Life is just like that "” “some days are diamonds some days are stones.” John Denver’s words are a truth to which I can subscribe. “Sometimes a cold wind blows a chill in my bones.”


This has been oh-so-true too many times on this visit to Brooklyn, New York.

I knew when I planned this trip to help my daughter Kendall out after the birth of her second son that I was setting myself up for some heartache. How could there not be?

Any time of leave-taking from loved ones is fraught with the immediate sorrow of being apart. Added into the mix is the fact that in the time I have been here in Brooklyn, absorbed with the baby’s arrival and the antics of a lively 2-year-old, there has been too much sad news: Merri’s husband Ross died; Rebecca’s father died in England; Tim’s father died suddenly, closely followed by the unexpected death of Tim’s girlfriend’s mother.

How many American and Iraqi deaths took place during the joyful peace march up Union Street here in Brooklyn on a recent sunny Sunday? And the news too is filled with sorrow, with too many shootings, too much death, and the news of Elizabeth Edwards’ struggle with incurable cancer.


Births and deaths. We think of these as polar opposites and yet each contains something of the other, enriching us and creating a dynamic sort of equilibrium. I look for some balance in all this.

Seek joy. "” Abraham

So, as the final days of my trip are upon me, I seek the joy, and search out the “diamonds” rather than the stones, wanting these to hold close when I leave for home.

My mind turns on all of this "” the sorrow, the joy, the messiness of it all "” as I walk the streets of Brooklyn and Manhattan these last days.

A trip by subway to the Museum of Natural History with visiting daughter Jenna and 2-year-old Christian holds both joys and disappointments and these mingle and create new balance.

Too many yellow buses brought too many kids there, and too much noise. Yet there were also many sweet moments, touches, gentle responses "” young people caring for each other and for the small boy with us amid the din...

How could I not also see the joy in this?

A walk in Brooklyn’s Botanic Gardens brings disappointment because the recent cold has kept spring at bay. Still, the green shoots that can just barely be seen above ground, the turtles climbing out of the water to sun themselves on rocks, the strolling apartment dwellers relishing the warmth of the day....


Yes, there is joy in all this as well.

So, as my time here draws to a close, I just hold to whatever I am feeling in the moment and wait for the next, knowing that if this moment holds sorrow, the next may bring joy; if this moment is filled with disappointment, the next may hold the bright, new promise of happiness.

I would not give up one moment of any of these. To diminish any part of the sad times might diminish the highs of the joy times.

Unwilling to miss the good, I embrace it all.

Sure, I will be sad to leave here. I will miss the family here and their friends and family here, too.

Yet, I will be happy to be home, and as my hands are busy with my own work, I will have lovely mind pictures and remembered small voices to hear in my head in the silence.

Not bad. Not bad at all, I say.

I extend my sympathies to those who have suffered these recent losses and hope they will soon know some sweet joy.


  • is a creative living coach, writer and artist who lives and works in Laguna Beach. She can be reached at or by phone at (949) 251-3883.