By Connie Robillard
"Some of you say, "Joy is greater than sorrow",
and others say, Nay, sorrow is the greater."
"But I say unto you, they are inseparable."
"Together they come, and when one sits alone with you
at your board remember that the other is asleep
upon your bed."
From: The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran
Life's journey is made up of detours; straight and narrow
passages mixed with incredible curves. My life, like most, has been
filled with random samplings of each. One wonderful and unexpected
detour has been the co-authoring of a book with a friend. This
publication, although wonderful, is not yet a best seller nor has it
brought great financial reward. Instead the writing of this book has
been one of those rare experiences that is, as they say in the
My friend and I, the co-author, overflow with gratitude for the
gracious people that have connected with us as a result of this
project. Each week someone calls, e-mails or tells us what the book
meant to them. At times we have an opportunity to speak to groups
about the effects of trauma. Each event is another milestone in our
I would like to share with you one emotional intersection that I
found myself at as a result of this book. As a long time journeyer,
I focus on the path. It never occurred to me to notice the
intersecting places where emotions cross over from one to another,
what Stanley Keleman* refers to as transitional space. It is the
space right between emotion - just before they meet. Why is this
important enough to give attention to? For me it is new, unknown and
underdeveloped land with exciting possibilities.
This intersecting road started as a special occasion, a book reading
in New York City, with a few old friends and people who I had come
to meet for the first time. A gathering to celebrate, to read and
share our work. It became an unexpected opportunity to sit in the
center of balance between sorrow and joy. This was an extraordinary
feeling, It is as if in the midst of feeling joy, sorrow comes to
sit close enough to touch sorrow and chooses not to. I found myself
holding the feelings of joy and sorrow in my heart all at the same
My friend read his selections from the book. I focused on his
clarity of voice as he spoke. With a degree of anxiety I began my
reading. It is the story of a young girl who, like me, had not been
heard. I begin to read the story titled Invisible.
The book had been highly emotional to write. Some of the content
is creative and symbolic. Other stories are painful recollections of
childhood events. This particular chapter had been one of the harder
ones to capture in words as it speaks of the desperation of reaching
out for help; help being close enough to taste and slipping away
because the listener is afraid.
I hear my voice shake as I began to read:
"Gram please ask him to stop hurting me. I don't like it when
he kisses me on the lips. He is hurting me and I don't know who to
tell. You are the only person I have told. Please tell him to stop."
She is his mother. Mothers can make their children stop doing bad
things to people.
Please Gram, make him stop.
Silence fills the room, except for the ticking of the clock.
I watch carefully as she sips her tea. She does not look at
me. Her hand smoothes the wrinkles from the tablecloth. I watch her.
I wait for her eyes to look at me. As time passes I stop breathing,
my eyes blur, my body stiffens. This is what it must feel like to be
She begins to speak and I feel myself breathe.
"Did you see the orange flowers by the walkway? Aren't they
What is she talking about? Didn't she just hear what I told her?
Again she speaks, "I was thinking of you and how much you love
flowers. Be sure you pick some, if you like. Take some home, dear.
Put them in a jar with water."
The clock chimes extra loud. I jump as if waking from a
As I read the chapter I was mindful of the attentive listening in
the room. When I stopped reading I was aware of only the silence. It
reminded me of my experience as a child. The all too familiar
feeling filled my throat, finding its way into my chest. At last the
man in front of me broke the silence by speaking of the girl's
sadness and the awfulness of someone not being willing to hear her
words. For him, he was commenting on a book reading. For me it was
the breaking into a feeling that was pinched between sorrow and joy,
deciding which way to travel.
As the guests in the room began to speak freely about their own
experience of working with clients and the story of the girl, I
began to breathe again. I discovered that I was sharing a moment
with enlightened people, not the past with a grandmother who wanted
to make it all go away by pretending and ignoring.
After the reading our host asked, "What did it feel like to do
the reading?" At that moment I did not have an answer to his
question- "It felt fine I said and then in a moment of self defense
I heard my voice say - they are just words for me now. I don't feel
their impact anymore."
In the morning, the feelings of joy and sorrow, that had sat
right next to one another the night before, eclipsed. The young girl
of long ago had cried the tears of sorrow, frustration and
disbelief. As a grown woman I am finally able to cry her soft
healing tears of relief.
As for joy, it moves in and out of my life. A transient visitor
that comes to grace my presence while sorrow awaits me around
*Stanley Keleman; Somatic Reality - Center Press, 1979