I have a confession to make. Sometimes, I get really really grumpy. And irritable. And angry. I know that some of my clients tend to assume that I spend most my time beaming beatifically as I walk down the streets, smiling at everyone and extending blessings to everyone who passes by me. And truthfully, some days I do. Other days, I most certainly do not.
For the past two weeks, I have been laid up at home with a neon pink cast on my right leg. As you may recall, I had surgery on my left ankle this time last year. Well, the right ankle got jealous and demanded the same treatment. So here I am again, in a cast and on crutches during the hottest month in New Mexico. At this moment, I am a very grumpy human.
I used to believe that to be a spiritual being, I had to be peaceful, content, radiant, and emanating pastel shades of purple from my aura at all times. I judged myself for being grumpy or getting irritated with loved ones. I couldn’t believe that I got impatient in traffic or murderous when faced with long plane delays and bad airport food. I thought that because I am spiritual, I should be peaceful and maintain total composure at all times.
And then I started to realize something. A very good friend of mine reminded me that in the Bible, there were times when Jesus got very angry. I’m by no means a religion expert but I do know that somewhere down the line, we got passed down an image of what it means to be spiritual and that image denies some of the more challenging aspects of being human. To be spiritual seems to mean that we should “transcend” our anger, pain, disappointment, frustration, and rage. Indeed, some religious paths suggest that we aim to do just that.
However, in doing so, we deny part of what makes us human. Being human is sometimes really hard. It just is. And there is nothing wrong with that. We are down here in dense physical matter surrounded by war, power games, poverty, hunger, physical pain, heartbreak, violence, etc. If we try and deny the pain and anger of what it is to be human, we send that pain and anger down deep inside our bodies and unconscious where it hides. When this happens, you can guarantee that one day, that pain and anger will rise up with a vengeance into a cataclysmic explosion.
What if instead of repressing our so-called “negative” emotions, we learned to accept them as part of what makes us human? What if instead of trying to get rid of our negative states, we just added kindness and compassion? What if we loved ourselves for courageously choosing to come down to this messy earth knowing it wouldn’t be easy?
For me, this looks like just accepting where I am without trying to sugarcoat it. Lately I’ve been telling my family, friends, and partner, “I’m grumpy. I just am.” And when I allow the truth of this to just come through, the grumpiness often organically subsides and I’m able to find my laughter again. Previously, I would have tried to appear cheerful and happy while stewing about the fact that I was grumpy and hated the hot New Mexico sun and the dog that kept getting in the way of my knee scooter. Now, when I take a deep breath and calmly admit what I am feeling to those around me, it feels like fresh air comes into my being and my energy begins to move.
Truth is, we are human. We will get depressed, feel anxiety, get annoyed, hate our loved ones, and frown when faced with long airport security lines. And all of this is ok. I believe that the great spiritual avatars all experienced similar emotions. I have even seen some of my most respected spiritual teachers lose their cool once or twice. And it’s ok. The more acceptance and loving we can bring to our unpleasant emotions, the quicker those emotions can move. To be spiritual is to be fully human, grumpiness and all.