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?


la vie en rose said...

what if? good question... and sometimes i do want to be one of the ones that is brave enough...and sometimes i'm just too scared...

dweezila said...

la vie en rose, I'm scared all the time, really, I am. And I get triggered and I get small and sometimes I'm sure I can't do it, and then, there I am, moving forward again.

.D. Turpitude said...

oh dweezila,

hi dear one. love this. love love love it. love it.

p.s. what is that allergy medicine?

dweezila said...

Claritin-D baby, Claritin-D

bjk said...

that's some was amazing to read.....thanks

brainhell said...

Claritin-D didn't make me energetic, it made me ANGRY! Maybe it doesn't mix well with testosterone? I threw out the package.

As to sadness, few might believe me, but I went there and emerged happy. So stable and cheerful that I annnoy some people who want to bond by sharing darkness.

kate said...

. . . . yeah and yeah and oh yeah . . . that ocean of sadness . . . no matter what we do, it is always there. I've spent my whole life learning techniques to Rid Myself of It. But I think now that itsn't about having it removed, but about carrying it with style. It isn't bad within itself, more like a living testament to the places in my living where the Yes met the No head-on and the sadness is the resulting scar tissue . . . but isn't it funny that when we meet someone and they reveal to us some scar of sadness that lives under the mask of their Daily 'i', it can be breathtaking and can make you fall in love with them . . .

tatz said...

Nothing I can say to meet the precision of this properly, other than maybe: yes, of course, & me, too, & thank you.

Lee said...

I suspect a lot of sadness is a result of dwelling on what may have been, on opportunities lost or even avoided.

It is a natural human trait to believe that all such missed events would have been deliriously happy and untroubled; flowers, stars, rainbows and white doves. We then compare this ideal world with our own real but troubled one. We find our real world lacking and we feel sad.

It is a form of grieving.

insain in the membrain said...

being sad and having pain is what makes people deep- thats what makes people tick and give them the passion to go on--great post

shara said...

I'm not one to seek out sadness for sadness' sake alone. But having had it thrust upon me, I have to say, it certainly can fuel some interesting artistic visions. Might as well make something beautiful out of it, even if it's a sombre kind of beauty.

Dale said...

Yes. It's very delicate, though. When the Buddha said life is suffering, he didn't mean that bad shit always happens. He was talking about the deep sadness. He thought that people with particularly happy lives were unfortunate, because it was all to easy for them to avoid seeing the real sadness, until it was (in this life) too late.

BUT, and this is a huge BUT -- it's also possible to identify with the sadness -- being human, we are given to ego-attachment to just about anything -- and that's a wrong turn too.

The joy, even deeper than the sadness -- you've got to reach down to that bottom layer. Of course you can't always reach it. But it's always there, and if you touch it so seldom that you start to disbelieve in it, you're in just a negative version of the Claritin-D state; you're just as thoroughly deceived.

Of course I want to hold you and kiss you and tell you (what is surely true) that the ballerina's husband is thirty kinds of fool if he's not hopelessly in love with you. But that's just my own attachment talking.

Even while the dust moves
There rises the hidden laughter
Of children in the foliage
Quick now, here, now, always—
Ridiculous the waste sad time
Stretching before and after.

dweezila said...

thank you for what you wrote; i was counting on you to weigh in with your keen-hearted eye. (That's why you can't go away brother) I love what you said, especially here, a great reminder...

"The joy, even deeper than the sadness -- you've got to reach down to that bottom layer. Of course you can't always reach it. But it's always there, and if you touch it so seldom that you start to disbelieve in it, you're in just a negative version of the Claritin-D state; you're just as thoroughly deceived."

that is so important. I'm not always sure of the route to grandma's house of happiness, to that lap of joy, but I'll keep my head up and my I'll remember what you said. I wouldn't want to miss out on the joy that is always there. I've got to be more of a detective about it...maybe more curious about joy too.

gurl said...

o yes yes dweezila and dale,

last night i read this in Kathleen Norris' wonderful book, The Cloister Walk:

"as for designating despair as an aspect of the sin, or "bad thought," of pride, i find it enormously helpful. among other things, it defeats my perfectionism."

i resisted this at first cuz it sounded like the same ole christian buzzkill, but the last three words really stayed with me.


fiachan said...

i feel i'm lost in sadness.

dweezila said...

ah, fiachan, I hear your sadness. But what if it is a path, and one that all of us must inevitably move through, one shaky foot at a time, eyes and heart open, humble. You just keep moving baby.

Kathryn said...

i love every single one of your post but THIS one is amazing.

Kathryn said...

i love all you posts but this one is amazing. makes me feel good to know that I am not alone.

Josephine said...

Tought provoking post.

I have often, often wondered if we just raise one another to be truly tortured in this particular sense. I am on the path of ratifying a theory that sadness is just part of being human.

I just don't think we are meant to be happy, if we make it to adulthood.

Chronic sorrow, though, I believe may be a different story. One of a creature who's brain has interpreted the emotional landscape as one of a creature that is not fit to survive.

We are living in old bodies, shaped by the waters of millions of years. Why, then, do we continue to make the fatal error of believing that we are divinely inspired new beings? Our bodies may only be 40 or 60 or 80 years old, but the genes that control almost every apsect of these bodies - they go back much farther.

It is an interesting dilemma that deserves much attention.

Here's wishing you the mystery of happiness ~ Josephine

Anonymous said...

Hi Dweezila,

Beautiful post. I resonate with so much of it. As one of your Prozac-using friends, though, let me clarify: sadness is an intense emotion. Depression is a state characterized by loss of energy, passion, appetite, gusto, anything. I don't mind sadness when it comes as part of life's inevitable losses. I've felt it when people died, over break-ups, disappointments, partings, and sometimes shaking my head at the messed-up state of the world.

Depression is when you can't get out of bed, can't think clearly, can't feel much of anything, for days and weeks on end. It feels like having an ugly gray plastic rainhat shoved too tightly on top of your head.

I read an article in a scientific magazine last night that says perhaps the reason anti-depressants work is not so much about serotonin but more about neurogenesis--the innate ability of the brain to grown new cells and make new connections, which for some of us has been inhibited by trauma in childhood, genetics, or other reasons.

Anyway, that's my two cents. Nothing against sadness, which, as you said, has much of value to teach us. But God save me from immobilizing numbing depression!

Neurotransmitter Girl

z said...

This is so beautiful. It makes me feel and listen and think. It terrifies me.

Norene said...

i love the way you start this:

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

so conversational. but somehow better and deeper than that. as if not really conversational, but a writerly way of being conversational that is actually truer and more authentic that real talk.

so nice.

Tongue in Cheek Antiques said...

"I believe in my heart that that’s where the healing happens.- ...But walking headfirst into sadness isn’t for the faint of heart"

It sounds that as you sat with your sadness and the words poured straight from your heart. Healing begins when we can sit with it for awhile.
Your courage to do so is inspiring.

nichol said...

i have never posted before but i have read, hungrily, for a year. went months without anything from you. and come away disapointed. thank you for writing here.

i am not going through exactly what you are going through. but sadness and dissatisfaction is the same, i think.

how do i find my sadness' true home? how do i get there? i am tired of taking claritin-D. i dont know if i can live like this anymore. i try so hard everyday to be who i want to be. to be who i think i am supposed to be. and i can never get there. and it kills me everyday. everyday i let my kids watch too much TV, eat mcdonalds, everyday i dont go to the gym, eat organically, or smoke pot, going back to old habits...i feel i have failed. i cant hold it up anymore. i barely hold it together right now as it is. my laundry. laundry.

i want to sink into american commercialism and obesity. just because it is easier. i want to un-learn what i know about being healthy in order to stay alive longer. why on earth am i trying so hard when it just makes me feel like this?

MB said...

Appreciate reading this. And what Dale said.

Em said...

I'm just coming to your site, from Dale's blog.

Thank you for writing this. It has been floating near the edge of my consciousness for a long time. It never quite came out in words though. You must be an aware and honest person to have discovered it...

B. said...

I don't think sadness is what is waiting for us when we sit down and walk into our true home.