“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” Psalm 56:8
Unhappiness can be an ugly, ugly thing.
Not only are you unhappy, you ideally want everyone else around you to be unhappy as well – failing that, you’ll settle for neutral. You begrudge other people their joy. They laugh and you study their mouth, lips pulled back to reveal teeth delighting in whatever witticism transpired – how do they do that? Or maybe they’re laughing at something so idiotic – you judge them for their lowbrow sense of humor. But the laughing, it looks so effortless. You’re usually surprised by your own laughter.
At least you’re stopping at sadness, the edge of a precipice that holds things much darker and harder. It’s not depression where constant mind-gnawing reminds you that not only are you suffering, you’ll never get a break long enough to be distracted from your pain. The only relief then comes from mornings of hazy, first-woken seconds until re-remembering throws you back in that pit. Sadness is much milder than depression, lacking that barbed wire reminder that digs into your skin at every motion. This sadness is gentler – it lacks despair, and contains a silver lining of hope rides the coattails of an unassuming grief. “Patience,” it whispers. “This too, shall pass.” Easier, yes, but it doesn’t make it easy.
But your sadness makes others uncomfortable, as if you are somehow infecting their happiness. Maybe you’re doing it on purpose. Your presence is required but your presence doesn’t seem like enough. Your usual perky self is out on temporary leave and the replacement self just doesn’t cut it – it can simply exist, nothing more. Your usual self is suspected to be hiding and you’re uncomfortable but can’t leave because that would be rude but you also can’t stay because standing there looking miserable is also rude. (There’s a third option, but it requires an absurd amount of play-doh and duct tape and it just isn’t practical the majority of the time.) Others try to help, but both sides are relieved when they give up their unsuccessful foray into your unhappiness.
You remind yourself that grieving loss is a natural, necessary part of life, even if the feeling is so overwhelming that you’re not exactly sure what you’re mourning. There will be time to piece it all together later, but right now it’s still a little too cloudy to see. You know you won’t feel sad forever, and if you try to postpone acknowledging your feelings they’ll overflow at the most inconvenient moment; you’ll be stuck trying to explain to a cashier exactly why the lack of wintergreen gum resulted in a disproportionate amount of tears.
It’s okay to feel sad.
It’s okay to feel sad.
It’s okay to feel sad. The trick is knowing when to distract yourself from the sadness and when to let it wash over you. It’s a see-saw of surviving, one part mourning, one part moving forward. Repeat & repeat & repeat & repeat until the motion is balanced.
But the victory is found here: the sense of loss is a small price to pay for the experience. And that knowledge brings a sense of peace while prior experience brings patience. Familiar territory, this patience and peace. Armed thus, it’s onto the next adventure.