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I was studying the expression 抱えて生きている (literally "living while holding"?), and have found the best English equivalent to be "having to live with." In the English expression, the "thing" that one has to live with is almost always negative, unless you use the expression in an ironic way (ex., I have to live with all these hot co-eds staying at my place). In the Japanese examples I found, this negative implication seems to exist as well, but I was told that it is not necessarily so.

Here are some examples that clearly illustrate the negative meaning:

私はそのことを抱えて生きなければならない。 I have to live with that.

私は持病を抱えて生きていくすべを身につけました。 I learned to live with my chronic disease.

10年間、家に病人を抱えて生きてきました。I've had to live in the same house as a sick person for 10 years.

彼はいつも、何か問題を抱えて生きている。He is always living with some kind of problem.

私は、あなたがいつか離れていくのでは、という不安を抱えながら生きていくのに、疲れました。I have become so tired from having to live with the anxiety that you will someday leave me.

In the following example, my first translation gives the implication that the situation has a negative quality. In my second translation I attempt to more explicitly leave out this quality (the feeling of obligation that I imply may be wrong as well but that was my best shot). Does this expression always contain a negative nuance (except in ironic statements) or is my assumption wrong? If it is not always negative, could you provide an example where it is used to the contrary?

毎日、僕達は人に伝えたいことをいっぱい抱えて生きている。

Everyday, we live with (the problem/difficulty of) having to express things to other people.

Everyday, we live with having to express things to other people.

Addendum: Most of these translations are mine, so feel free to point out any flaws.

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There are related expressions 抱{いだ}く, 携{たずさ}える, 引きずる, 胸に秘める. –  sawa Jun 11 '12 at 18:53
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up vote 7 down vote accepted

After some very depressing searches (people are living with a lot of sad things), I did locate a few instances of this phrase used in a positive light.

  • In her Ameba profile, one woman stated 「なんとなく生きる中で見つけられた幸せを大切に抱えて生きたい」 ("I want to hold dear the happiness I have somehow been able to find while living").
  • In a tweet, someone said 「不安を抱えるより、希望を抱えて、生きたい」 ("I would rather live cradling hope than cradling regret").
  • The author of this blog entry stated 「何も諦めることなく、全て抱えて生きたいと思います」 ("I want to live with everything, without giving up on anything").
  • In another blog entry, someone wrote 「照れたり意地をはって、本当の気持ちを相手に言えないまま後悔するよりは、やるだけやった、と思えるエゴを抱えて生きたいと思います」 ("I think I'd like to live with an ego that can believe it took a chance, rather than feel regret after clinging embarrassingly to my pride and being unable to express to someone my true feelings").

While it seems all of these "positive" results have some degree of seriousness and melancholy, I believe they are all still examples of someone wanting to live with something. Furthermore, while I realize the original question specifically asks about 抱えて生きている and not 抱えて生きたい, I believe there is evidence here to suggest, for example, that 「希望を抱えて生きている」 or 「幸せを大切に抱えて生きている」 would not be inappropriate things to say.

It does seem to me therefore that 抱えて生きている does not always imply a situation with negative aspects.

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yes since posting i found this example but haven't studied it yet. ameblo.jp/100percent-midori-1/… thank you for yr effort –  yadokari Jun 12 '12 at 21:50
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