How would you answer that question?
Would you say yes, plainly and clearly? Or would you mumble your assent uncomfortably? Or would you be stuck dumb unable to utter the yes you want to because you feel there is something wrong with you if you admit to being sad? Is it because you also feel that…
Sadness is a vice.― Gustave Flaubert
…? Or would you turn belligerent and and say “I WILL BE OKAY- is that what you want me to say?!” Or would you bite your lips, fight back your tears fiercely, look me defiantly in the eye and say, “Sad? I’m not sad! Who said I was?!”
I wonder why we feel so upset about sadness. Imagine becoming uptight about having brown eyes, or a mole at the corner of your mouth, or the fact that rain makes you want to dance. What use is it, this getting upset over something as universal and ordinary about sadness? This…. shame… that we feel about sadness makes us want to shut it up somewhere so it won’t be seen or heard from. It skewers something within us and turns it misshapen and ugly because we would cram something into a hole; something which can’t be- shouldn’t be- crammed. The bard cautioned us about it and said:
Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break. ― William Shakespeare, Macbeth
Or else we carry them around in public and:
The only sadnesses that are dangerous and unhealthy are the ones that we carry around in public in order to drown them out with the noise; like diseases that are treated superficially and foolishly, they just withdraw and after a short interval break out again all the more terribly; and gather inside us and are life, are life that is unlived, rejected, lost, life that we can die of.― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
In a way that isn’t surprising because people always try to placate you with empty platitudes forgetting that:
It is a grave injustice to a child or adult to insist that they stop crying. One can comfort a person who is crying which enables him to relax and makes further crying unnecessary; but to humiliate a crying child is to increase his pain, and augment his rigidity. We stop other people from crying because we cannot stand the sounds and movements of their bodies. It threatens our own rigidity. It induces similar feelings in ourselves which we dare not express and it evokes a resonance in our own bodies which we resist.― Alexander Lowen, The Voice of the Body
The truth is:
Emotions, in my experience, aren’t covered by single words. I don’t believe in “sadness,” “joy,” or “regret.” Maybe the best proof that the language is patriarchal is that it oversimplifies feeling. I’d like to have at my disposal complicated hybrid emotions, Germanic train-car constructions like, say, “the happiness that attends disaster.” Or: “the disappointment of sleeping with one’s fantasy.” I’d like to show how “intimations of mortality brought on by aging family members” connects with “the hatred of mirrors that begins in middle age.” I’d like to have a word for “the sadness inspired by failing restaurants” as well as for “the excitement of getting a room with a minibar.” I’ve never had the right words to describe my life, and now that I’ve entered my story, I need them more than ever. ― Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex
Sadness wouldn’t upset us if we made room for it within us:
Have you got any soul?” a woman asks the next afternoon. That depends, I feel like saying; some days yes, some days no. A few days ago I was right out; now I’ve got loads, too much, more than I can handle. I wish I could spread it a bit more evenly, I want to tell her, get a better balance, but I can’t seem to get it sorted. I can see she wouldn’t be interested in my internal stock control problems though, so I simply point to where I keep the soul I have, right by the exit, just next to the blues.― Nick Hornby, High Fidelity
And when it threatens to overwhelm us, run us over and drown us; when we are in the middle of a storm of sadness, if we would only ask ourselves:
I remember asking myself one night, while I was curled up in the same old corner of my same old couch in tears yet again over the same old repetition of sorrowful thoughts, ‘Is there ANYTHING about this scene you can change, Liz?’ And all I could think to do was stand up, whle still sobbing, and try to balance on one foot in the middle of the living room. Just to prove that – while I couldn’t stop the tears or change my dismal interior dialogue – I was not yet totally out of control: at least I could cry hysterically while balanced on one foot. ― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
Moreover, with time you not only realize, but accept- accept in that silent, wondrous part of our soul- that:
The older I get, the more I see there are these crevices in life where things fall in and you just can’t reach them to pull them back out. So you can sit next to them and weep or you can get up and move forward. You have to stop worrying about who’s not here and start worrying about who is.― Alex Witchel, The Spare Wife
You accept that sadness and happiness are both external constructs. They are both driven by the things the world throws at us. And that’s alright. A tree must withstand terrible rain storms as well as the scorching heat of the sun before it can grow tall and be a succor to others who stop in its benign shade:
Sadness gives depth. Happiness gives height. Sadness gives roots. Happiness gives branches. Happiness is like a tree going into the sky, and sadness is like the roots going down into the womb of the earth. Both are needed, and the higher a tree goes, the deeper it goes, simultaneously. The bigger the tree, the bigger will be its roots. In fact, it is always in proportion. That’s its balance. ― Osho, Everyday Osho
After all, you do have a choice:
What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more’ … Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: ‘You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.― Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science: with a Prelude in Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs
What do you say?
A request to my readers:
Usually I’m fine with people reading and not commenting. But if you’ve taken the time to read this post, please say something before you go. Perhaps your words will strike a cord with the other readers and give them a moment of courage- and solace. I would love to add your words to this post as your contribution. Also, please share this. There are many amongst us who hide an aching heart behind a smile.
Thank you. God bless!