Bittersweet. It’s a word that has resonated with me lately. It seems there is this pull on my heart like puppies tugging on a rope; one end is joy, the other sadness. I search for the place right in the middle where I can stop and take it all in.

There are hellos and goodbyes. The hellos bring joy while the goodbyes feel as though a piece of myself has been swept away. I breathe deep trying to recover. My daughter coming home from college–pure joy. My daughter leaving for college–bittersweet. Joy for her and her future, pain for me knowing it will be some time before I see her again. Puppies and their Mama in my constant care for six weeks and then gone. Happiness over adopting two of them, sadness knowing I couldn’t adopt their Mom. Happiness that all of the puppies found good homes. Sadness and concern for their Mama who is still waiting. Bittersweet.

Do I ignore the sadness and focus only on happy thoughts? How do I do that when I’m hurting? Is there happiness right behind the sadness? The answer came in one word. Love. Love is the thread that runs through joy and sadness. When we open ourselves up to love, the blinders are removed and our heart sees another. Once that happens we are vulnerable. It’s scary because we know we can get hurt at any moment. But it is only through loving that we become stronger. The guarded, fearful heart that does not learn to love eventually feels the constant pain of loneliness.

Loving someone, knowing there are no guarantees, makes us stronger because we’ve taken the leap, opened ourselves up, and if we fall and hit the ground we’re still better off than the guarded heart because we’ve learned to get up. We understand that we are better off for having loved and having received love. We understand that hidden in the pain of goodbye is love. When we focus on the love we gave and the love that was given we feel the joy that is life even through the sadness. That’s why we are always better off for loving. Love and Life are one.

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