I’ve been waking up SO SAD nearly every day for months on end. Aside for a really good stretch January to May and September, the tally runs to years. It used to take me about an hour to get out of bed back in the bad old days when I was deluged with the impossibilities of founding my startup. I got down a hole deeper than I had previously known existed. Some days I could not get the energy to do the things that gave me energy, like going out for a simple walk. I felt like a car with a faulty starter motor. I would send the thought to my body to put my feet on the floor and haul my unshowered carcass upright, yet nothing would happen. I turned the key and didn’t even get a click. The dome light had the barest glow of orange light.
Nowadays the dome light is full on bright (at least part of the time, but mornings still bedevil me. Perhaps my dreams are combing through unprocessed fear and trauma which seeps forward into my newly awakened consciousness. Perhaps I’m not sleeping deeply enough, though I almost never use an alarm clock.
I don’t know. The sadness seems to surpass any amount of sleep. Too much makes it worse, even. The sadness of feeling sets in as melancholy. That you do not need. I believe in life there will always be some amount of suffering. Even if you are to find immense joy in your own life, there will be others who are the victims of injustice, but we need not feel the meta sadness. Feel the sadness, but you don’t have to experience the extra sadness layer. It’s enough to be with the suffering without adding to it shame and self judgment. Don’t allow the negative self talk that says being sad is evidence that no one loves you, you’re a loser, you’re not worthy of help, or other such nonsense.
We are all sad sometimes. We are all sad for long times, sometimes. It seems to be a part of the creative cycle. The idea phase brings euphoria. I wish it could always be this way - all ideas, all new, all the time, but alas, for me and many fellow creatives the process of birthing those beautiful ideas is painful. Many long days I spend in the sadness of the birth. It never feels like it’s happening - that’s how you know it’s happening.
Laying here in my hotel bed writing this out on ivory grid lined paper, I ache to say something, to reach into your heart and apply a soothing balm to make the dull sadness go away, yet I cannot heal you. I wish I could. The best I can hope for is that you will heal yourself.
Sadness informs us of what needs healing. Without pain you would not perhaps even notice that damage had been caused. The body uses pain signals to tell us there’s some part which needs adjustment or assistance. The ache in your toe signals your sock has bunched up and imminently will cause a blister. The pinch in your lower back insists that you carry only one box of cookbooks instead of impatiently stacking another on top of your load.
Pain prevents us from inflicting further damage to the body. Mental pain attempts to do the same. The same neural pathways involved in a toothache are used for heartbreak as well. As strange as it may seem, taking a Tylenol actually does help if you’re going through a bad breakup.
The mental pain can follow us for years, and causes more physical pain. It’s not anymore in our head than a toothache, yet once a toothache heals, we don’t go on feeling the memory of the pain. It heals and we leave that pain in the past.
Mental anguish serves to keep us from hurting ourselves again in the same way. You might feel a wave of sadness to prevent you from making the same choices over again which previously brought pain.
Pain, pain, pain, pain, pain. Avoidance of pain isn’t living, it’s merely surviving, hanging on by your fingernails.
When nothing else feels real, pain will remind you you’re still alive. When you can feel nothing else, you can still feel pain. It will remind you that your brave beating heart still pushes you onward.
Pain is a lesson, perhaps one you did not want to learn. It keeps us honest with ourselves and with others. Pain is simple, though not simple to move through. It exists to keep us safe. Period. The End. But living a life ruled by the avoidance of pain - namely one ruled by fear - will create the most complex labyrinths you can conjure to keep you ensnarled. Pain instructs. Fear paralyzes. Do not mistake one for the other. Pain is true. It’s damage to body, soul, or mind happening in the moment. Fear is a prediction of that damage possibly occurring in the future. Fear is our simulation of what might happen next which detects evidence of a threat.
Fears don’t help me. I try to not act according to my fears, because they talk too much, too loudly, and take themselves way too seriously. I’m not saying you should ignore the info contained in fear. All of our feelings are useful, even if unpleasant. I just don’t want to be ruled by my fears.
It’s a subtle distinction between “not wanting to go to the Saturday BBQ because you’re afraid you’ll have to talk to your partner’s ex” and not wanting to go because the prospect of being at the party together changes the energy in such a way that it’s no longer a situation that sounds like the best way to spend your time. In the first, part of you really wants to go, but another facet of your personality ruminates on what you’ll say to her, what she’ll reply, playing out dozens of imaginary conversations in your head - all of it complete fiction. None of those imaginary conversations will actually play out.
The second scenario interacts with the situation as it is. You do not wish to go to the wished-for alternate reality part where the ex doesn’t attend. You accept reality as it is and move forward, which eliminates a whole lot of suffering immediately. Instead of wishing that things were different, you can spend your precious attention and energy on getting clear on how you want to show up in the situation. You can still acknowledge that your reaction to your partner’s ex is likely to be unpleasant and