On Sadness

No one seems to talk about being sad anymore. In a world rich with the parlance of mental illness and diagnosis, 'depression' is pushing out - what is to me at least - the more tolerable and beautiful elder of depression, sadness.

It's not easy to talk openly about sadness - perhaps because of the fear of deepening a hole in our bones for it to sink further in to, or because of what it 'brings up' that is uncomfortable to face - but the ubiquitous presence of sadness in art, music and literature tells us that we're as drawn to sorrow and melancholy as we've ever been. Hard to resolve as it is, there is a great deal of beauty in sadness. There is something alluringly cathartic about embracing the sad moment, and giving over to it's longing in the privacy of our own hearts, to the soundtrack of a song played in the minor chord.  

How we do sad is personal. For some, there is a need to be together in collective moments of grief and loss. For others, it can be an intensely private affair. There are some who release it through crying; finding relief in this climactic expression of pain and heartache. And others who will simply sit unto themselves and wait patiently for its end. But both states do not offer an end. Sadness cannot ever fully end, principally because everything else can.  Sadness is, because one day we will not. Sadness is an indication of reality. 

I identify with being a sad person, not because I'm unhappy and joyless - much of my life is a joy to me, expressed in hope - but because above all I am enthralled, enchanted and motivated by the 'difficult feelings' that flow out of the finitude of our human condition. I'm grateful to get up every day and start again, precisely because I know - sadly - I won't always. Like many, I have experienced enough loss to fill my shadow several times over, and I have invested my time in understanding how to work with it. At times, I hold on to sadness too tightly - I have done this again recently despite awareness of my 'process' - as if in doing so I might keep what cannot be kept - perhaps even relieve from others what they can't carry themselves. In doing so, sadness becomes unbearable.

But generally, I've found that a curious and kind approach to the inevitable visitation of sadness over the years has lead to my most empathic and compassionate work. If I can carry my own existential sadness with an embracing joy in the suffering of it - if I permit that in myself - then it invites and allows others to walk freely in and out of their own. Because there is nothing so stifling as being told what you should feel, nothing as liberating as being invited to feel what you want. Every feeling has it's own need for expression in and through the individual. Anything held too tightly can become a problem.

Sadness needs to breathe itself out, as much as we do. Mindfully noticing sadness and letting it move in and out of the rooms of our life, is to acknowledge that everything is welcome, before time ultimately runs out on us. Letting sadness in is an invitation to our mind and body to do it's most courageous work of recognising it's potential to do no more. There is no path that can be taken without it. But in the end the wish of sadness fulfilled, is peace. 

Walking in to the lonely place