Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Following sadness to its true home

Bear with me because I’m going to talk about allergy medicine for a second and then I’m going to talk about sadness.

Because I got this cold last week; sore throat, sniffles, and it just depleted me. Bad timing too because I was set to start teaching two new classes and the last thing I wanted to do was drag my sorry, exhausted ass into the room and launch a class like that.

That’s when I remembered this allergy medicine that I took a couple of years ago when I had this bad cold, and how as soon as I took the medicine, I mean, within minutes, I went from limpy, sad, sniffly woman to supersonic, fantastic, let’s take over the world, and run a marathon after that and get laundry done and edit 20 pages and make a four course meal for my family, which was fantastic, but which is why they tell you on the package not to take more than one of these little white pills every 12 hours.

But the thing is, the funny thing is, when you get to about hour 10 in your day and the medicine begins to wear down, you start to feel your sore throat again, and the sniffles come back too, which makes me wonder if that allergy medicine is tackling that cold at all or whether it’s just masking it, shooting me out into the world in total spastic denial, and then what have I really accomplished?

And this gets me thinking about sadness and all the ways I’ve masked it, tried to get away from it. I realize that I could spend the rest of my life fixing and changing things that I don’t like, that made me sad, but it would be like putting out little fires that once extinguished would just light up again in new places.

And so what I’m wondering is what would it be like to follow sadness back to its true home?

Because the things that make me sad, and I know reading this might trouble you because these things might make you sad too, like if your husband really did love the ballerina very much and if he didn’t know how to answer you when you asked him whether he’d leave her if you asked him to. Or if the ballerina’s husband, someone you love, wasn’t able to return this love in the way you wanted him to, and what a heartbreak that could be. And even though those things can feel horribly sad, I’m starting to believe that they’re just triggers for a much deeper sadness that isn’t just distinct to me, but maybe to you too. A birthright we all share in some way.

Because you can live a life of preference; this over that. You can try to eliminate the things that hurt, that crack you open and you can stay away from the edge too. You can tell lies if you like. Especially to the people you love. You can even make people say what you want them to say and get them to change, FOR YOU, so you won’t feel sad anymore. You can run from sadness for a very long time. And of course they have lots of sadness medicine too, like Prozak, which many people I love swear by.

But all the while, I’m telling you, your sadness is there, waiting, like a perfectly patient friend, waiting for you to get tired of fixing things and manipulating people or drinking too much or watching TV. or whatever it is we do to numb the pain. What I’m saying is the things that make us sad, they’re just distractions, even the ballerina and her husband, people I deeply love. Their job as problems is to merely trigger sadness so that I might finally find my way home to where sadness really lives. So that I might stop putting out the little fires that trouble me, so that I might finally sit down with the big daddy of pain and let him do his thing to me. Call me crazy, but I believe in my heart that that’s where the healing happens.

But walking headfirst into sadness isn’t for the faint of heart. And it’s not very American either. We don’t like sadness: it’s not very productive and it troubles people. They might not want to be around you.

But what if that journey to sadness’ true home, what if it wasn’t crazy, what if it saved your life?