Monday, November 26, 2012

In Praise of Sadness

This may sound crazy, but I‘m starting to realize I enjoy a lot of unpleasant emotions.

The right amount of stress provides a rush, getting my adrenaline going. Much of my comedy is fuelled by my insecurities--the more I connect to that self-loathing, resentment, and bitterness, the more honest and funny I can be. Normally, I despise feeling helpless, but there are moments--lying in the hospital bed waiting for the doctor to come back or when the car is spinning across a black ice covered highway--when it also leads to an exhilarating sense of freedom. There is nothing left under my control; all that’s left to do is relax and see how things turn out.

But the emotion that strikes the deepest chord in me is sadness.

I suppose that sounds weird.

I don’t talk about this much because I don’t have many people to talk to about this subject, but to me feelings are a lot like the musical instruments in an orchestra. Sure, maybe some are predominating, but the others are often there too. Even in the midst of an anxiety solo, gratitude is still in the background, providing texture, while guilt plays a countermelody and faith beats a steady percussive rhythm.

Some of us are attuned better to some feelings than others, but that doesn’t mean those other feelings aren’t there. Violins don’t disappear, just because they aren’t playing. They’re providing space with their absence, waiting for their moment to kick back in.

So too with feelings. Every moment is a symphony. Many of us hear the feelings we’re used to hearing. Some us think we need to create new and different feelings in our lives, but the emotions we want are already there, waiting for us to notice them. We don’t need to look for happiness, all we need to do is listen to the happiness already there.

One of the emotions I hear most deeply is grief. It’s not always the loudest emotion, but one of the most constant, possibly because grief is a response to loss, and I am keenly aware that loss is happening every moment around us.

You will never get this moment again. The second you spent reading this sentence isn’t coming back. The sounds around you, this breath in your lungs, that feeling in your foot….this is the first, last, and only time you will experience life in this particular configuration.

Every moment is colored by loss and that’s what makes those moments so beautiful.

I feel it when I'm playing with my nephew. Every time I see him, he's grown a little more or discovered something new. It's amazing to see where he's going, but I also feel a sense of loss at what's being left behind. There will be a day when I no longer need to feed him, carry him, read to him and while that's as it should be, there's also a sadness. Each spoonful in his mouth is one closer to the last time. Each story I read him is one closer to the day he'll be able to read on his own. I'm excited to see the person he'll become and the way we'll relate to each other, but I also mourn the relationship we're leaving behind.

I feel it when I perform: This joke for this crowd. It’s the only time it will happen this way. I will never get this particular laugh--a wave from one side of the room, scatted chuckles from a table near the back, a single clap coming from the right--again.

I especially feel it when I make love. With relationships, you never know what the future holds, except in those cases when you know EXACTLY what the future holds, and those can be the most heartbreaking moments of all. The moment won’t last forever, yet at the same time, it can never be taken away either. Even when things end, their touch may be gone, but the fingerprints remain on your heart, no two the same.

Eventually, we will lose everything: the houses we’ve worked so hard to build and buy. The music we listen to will be replaced and forgotten. Our hearts will be broken as lovers leave us. The people we love will pass on. Even out bodies will eventually go--our eyesight fades, our hearing fails, and one breath will be our last.

Sorrow is an ocean. You look around and it’s all you can see. Sometimes it moves beneath you in gentle swells. Other times the storms nearly capsize you.

There is no feeling quite like heartache. It’s like breathing in ice. It’s like breathing out shards of broken glass. It’s a wind through your chest and a hole in your stomach where life used to be.

It’s unpleasant.

But it isn’t a bad thing.

Loss is a Canadian winter night--dark, cold, unrelenting, but also glittering with its own icy beauty. And when its all around you, you appreciate those small things you have. Surrounded by all that cold and dark, the warmth and light of your house and the friends and family around you feel all the more precious.

That’s the magic of grief; It ties us to one another, even at our loneliest moments. It breaks our heart, but shares those pieces with others, binding them together so we can draw strength from one another.

We can feel the losses of those we’ve never met. When we see a picture in the newspaper or read about the suffering of others, it’s hard not to feel their sorrow.

We don’t know them. We don’t know their pain.

But we know what it’s like to suffer, and so we reach out to them, if only with our hearts.

Sadness is only bad when it is polluted by Despair, that part of your mind that whispers that you are alone in the world, that this pain is all there is and all there ever will be. It can be poisoned by pride,
shame, or resentment, thoughts that you don’t deserve to feel this, that you are alone and no one can help you, that you aren't worthy of help, or that others should hurt the way you are hurting.

But the heart of grief itself is pure.

You have hands to give or receive comfort. You have a voice to ask for or provide reassurance. Most of all you have a heart to feel others pain through your own, to know you aren’t alone.

And even as your heart is breaking you can remember all the others in the world who feel this way or have felt this way, realize that you’re intimately connected to all those who are hurting.

And with each painful breath, in and out, realize that you will never be alone.

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sistasage said...

fantastic. thank you SO much.

Dan_Brodribb said...

Thank YOU for reading.

Feel free to share it, if you think it might help anyone.