Tuesday, December 14, 2010


now that the moon has entered her second quarter, the sun is shining on the sea, and i am smiling again (see above for evidence aimed at reassuring my worried readers), i'd like to sit here for a while with my cup of tea (and you) and ponder this whole 'feeling bad' thing.

just imagine for a moment a world in which the following conversation would take place between two friends:

- i don't know what's wrong with me... for weeks now, i wake up every morning, and i am just feeling so happy. it's crazy. and it goes on all day, too. i wake up with it, i go to bed with it. i've tried all my usual tricks to get rid of it, but nothing seems to help.
- oh honey! how awful! i'm sorry to hear it... remember i had more or less the same thing last year? i thought it would never end...
- yes, i do remember. what did you end up doing?
- oh, i tried everything: books, movies, walking, running, talking... nothing helped. i even went into therapy for a while... in the end, i just took pills for it. couldn't see any other way out.

crazy, you say? yet, replace 'happy' with 'miserable', and you have a perfectly 'normal' conversation. working on the assumption that the people i don't know (many many many) are not altogether that different from the people i do know (a few dozens), i would say that the human condition involves more or less as many 'bad' mornings/weeks/months/years as 'good' mornings/weeks/months/years. so what are we doing, turning up our noses at half of our lives?

(note in passing that it's really hard to talk about feeling 'yucky' in neutral terms, since almost all the words for it are either of the clinical disorder type or, well, 'yucky').

so what's so bad then, about feeling sad? some say it hurts. in my very limited, subjective and personal experience, however, it is not feeling sad (when feeling sad) that hurts. not crying when your throat is full of tears, that really hurts (incidentally, trying not to laugh when you have to is just as painful, as any parent watching their young child perform a theatre play will be able to confirm). but a good deep long cry relaxes, soothes and calms. in fact, it's right up there with the full-blown spa treatment in terms of recharging your battery.

and it's not just a question of physical benefits. sorrow has a softness to it, a gentleness, a compassion, that joy sadly lacks. when terribly sad, i always feel so connected to the rest of humanity; seeing people walk on the street, i can feel their pain alongside mine, and i am overwhelmed with compassion for us all. everyone is me, i am everyone. we are all in this together. and sorrow makes me appreciate the little things, the small daily gestures of love, the smell of my child's head, the one rose courageously braving the frost. there is something very grounding and soothing in sorrow.

some say sorrow is dangerous, if indulged in for too long. that's probably true, but isn't everything dangerous, if indulged in for too long? true, depressed people are more likely to take their own lives, but insanely cheerful people are more likely to have crazy accidents because they think they are invincible and immortal. as for daily health benefits, again, i'm guessing being joyful all the time is probably as bad for you as being sad all the time. it must be exhausting on the kidneys...

anyway, let's face it, for most of us, there's no question of 'insanely' and 'all the time'. it comes and goes. some days are more tumbly, others more quiet. some days are more out, others more in, some days have more laughter, others more tears. and isn't that just lovely?

imagine feeling cheerful all the time. the thought alone is exhausting. i'd turn into a duracell rabbit, a never-blinking robot.

and then there's the other thing i often hear (... from my own mouth): 'yes, but i want to be happy!'. so, does 'happiness' necessarily equal 'joy', or even 'equanimity'? i don't know how it is for you, but last week, i was lying in bed, crying my eyes out for the third time that day, with the cat on my feet, and a loving arm around me. i was really really really sad. a seemingly bottomless pit of sadness. if someone had asked me, right at that moment, 'are you happy?', i would honestly have had to say 'yes, incredibly so!'.

so maybe happiness has less to do with avoiding pain and sorrow, and more to do with being where i am, feeling what i feel, and letting what there is be. loving the sadness, loving the joy, loving everything in between. i mean, are endings less beautiful than beginnings, are decaying flowers less pretty than fresh ones, is dying less of an amazing life-changing experience than being born? why not embrace the whole of existence?

there. i've almost convinced myself. what do you think?


Josh said...

amazing woman, that's what i think.

Pauline said...

You've convinced me, too. But then you already did. By the way, an unusual explosion of words, compared to your most recent bloggin-style. Could it be the siletn day that does this?