Pain and joy are the flip sides of each other. The deeper you go with one, the more capacity you have for the other. I feel everything so much more now in my thirties than I ever did before: more happiness and moments of the sweetest effervescent thrills, and also pain that cuts purer and truer than I ever believed possible. Sometimes these extremes happen in the same day, or the same hour.
In my twenties, I was always thrill seeking, looking for the next euphoria that would get me through. As I've aged, I've relaxed into emotion in a completely new way. I know that it will find me eventually. The terrible and the wonderful, ebbing and flowing like the tide. I'll feel blue for no real reason, and the next day I'll have a surge of joy that I couldn't predict or plan for.
I've stopped trying to categorize everything. The highs get higher, but that's only because I'm allowing myself to feel the basement emotions in equal measure. I tried to keep pain at bay as a young adult, and now I realize how much value there is in hurting. I learn more from the anguish than the ecstasy. I never enjoy the painful moments, but the double-edged sword is always there, and I understand now that joy is on the other side of that blade, and if I don't let the hurt strike home, I don't get the full benefit of the edge that brings happiness.
I like the safety and security I experience now with my feelings. I am not as afraid of their power as I once was. I know that they will sweep in, and then change, and then disappear, and I will be a better person for embracing what I feel and not trying to find the escape hatch.
I love that one of my friends recently blogged that having children changed her from the "self-centered twerp that she used to be." I wonder how many of my emotional changes came from learning the art of self-sacrifice as a mother, or simply from getting older and not worrying so much about what I cannot control. It's probably a mix of both, for every experience we have had, good or otherwise, has brought us to this point. I am the person I am today because of everything that I have done, or that has been done to me, over the course of my life. I wouldn't want to change any of it, and I know that I'm not done learning yet, and that every day presents the chance for a new discovery.