What does it mean to have sadness be comforting? It’s a question I have struggled with most of my adolescent and adult life. Not only am I told on a weekly basis to smile more, I get asked, “whats wrong?” and people have told me I am a “naturally sad person.” On the surface, I would say that is not a positive trait. But the more I have grown emotionally and come to terms with who I am as an adult and a woman I have found that not only am I not the only “naturally sad” person out there, naturally sad people make some of the most beautiful music, art and writing known to man. “Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind”- Marcel Proust. I am not saying happiness doesn’t have a time and a place, because it does. Happiness makes the soul stronger and capable of holding all the sorrow we experience. If sorrow was the only thing filling our hearts, we would surely wither and die. So where is the fine line between being “naturally” happy, or sad? What does that even mean? To me, it means I rejoice in melancholy. I appreciate music that pulls at my heart strings and maybe even makes me feel nostalgic, sometimes nostalgic for something I don’t even know exists. I’ve been happy in relationships but it seems that happiness doesn’t fill me up like the times when me and my lover cry together, share our dark secrets and bad parts of ourselves. Smiling only goes so far with me. As a woman, I think this might be an unusual trait to be proud of. Typically, you want a woman whose disposition is cheery, who doesn’t cry or complain too much and basically pretends everything is fine. I do not conform to that ideal though. I take pride in the fact that things move me to tears. That I can cry at the drop of a hat and that I embarrassingly so, relate a little too much to that song, “I’m Only Happy When It Rains”. As a little girl I was always sort of a loner, but a happy loner. I didn’t like the giddiness of my fellow school mates and found their behavior irritating. I was much happier turning the plastic benches up-side down and pretending I was in a spaceship, flying far away from everything. Solitude never bothered me and it wasn’t even until after high school that I realized I was a loner, that I didn’t find solace in inviting my girlfriends over after school and having/going to parties. In fact, I remember writing in my diary wishing these girls would go away, even though I had been the one to invite them for a sleep over. Not to say I didn’t like these girls, they were my friends. I just found at an early age that all their giddiness emotionally exhausted me and that I would rather go back to listening to The Smiths by myself. Now, as an ‘attractive’ woman I am expected to smile more, laugh more and be more appeasing. Im not supposed to put forth a serious demure nor am I supposed to listen to such sad music all the time. I am always being told there is “a time and a place” for such things. I was told my face would be stuck in a frown and it was explained to me how many more muscles it takes to frown than it does to smile. (I have never fact checked this statement, but I always found myself in a deeper frown after being told it.) It puzzled me as a young girl: “I don’t feel sad.” I would think to myself. And I wasn’t, generally. Everytime someone would randomly tell me, “smile!” with all teeth blaring like a rabid dog all I could think was, “why? What’s funny?” It didn’t occur to me at that young age that people were just expected to smile all the time, at each other and no one. When people ask “How are you?”, they don’t actually care, they want to hear everything is fine and to pretend everything is fine with them too. Growing older, however, I have come to a point where I can say I have maybe found my nitch. You don’t have to be a grouch or believe you are going to grow into an old hag (the alternative being?) just because your lips aren’t constantly turned upward. People are still going to adore you, you can still be funny and a bright light in people’s lives. The heart and soul is as vast and mysterious and ever changing as the ocean itself. Just because mine is guided by the light of the moon doesn’t mean it’s not guided by light.
Sometimes all I can think about is a dream I had. The really intense kind that you wake up crying or breathing really hard from and you spend the whole day with an emotional hangover from it. Some days all I can think about is a particular sandwich. One with turkey and sprouts or a blt maybe. Other days I just imagine the pictures of myself I don’t know about that are floating around in cyberspace. Then I think about what it would feel like to kiss you and I almost always make a face as though someone squirted lemons in my eye and I decide to not ever try. I watched all the faces on the train and felt what it feels like to really be alone. Everyone just walks by each other and you aren’t noticed and neither are they. We may as well be invisible.
If fairies are real they are crying and embarrassed of us. If unicorns went extinct it’s because we killed them. If I never find beauty in the sunset, it’s my fault and my fault alone. When I call something ugly it’s because it represents every part of myself I think is ugly. Disappointment is only a reminder of what you’re doing wrong. Lie in the river and feel the rocks scrape your skin and let the crystal water wash your tears to the ocean. All salt belongs together, not collected in painted boxes. If your ears don’t dance to the flute, you may as well never hear laughter again. Your fingers are supposed to feel, to become calloused with time and every line is a memory of all the love and hatred you hold onto. The smallest of cuts scars my skin and I want to believe it’s because I take it all in. I never forget, but I am always healing. You can remember pain without knowing what it feels like, and memory doesn’t have to make you cry. My favorite dreams are of my body being made of cement but my love and ambitions and hopes and even fears break through the walls and travel to the sun as flowering vines and shrubs. Because my skin is only keeping my bones and intestines from floating into the cosmos but it’s still alive. It’s alive and you shouldn’t take it for granted.
If my brain was a map there would be volcanoes and hurricanes painted across the continents. There would be brain quakes and those continents would shift and allow for new growth. Sometimes it’s underwater and then it’s a deserted oasis. Every map has it’s own story with it’s own fractures and weather patterns and life forms inhabiting the land, and now I understand war. Because no one was there when the quakes happened, when the hurricane wiped out all the trees and left the land of your brain in chaos. We make a lot of enemies by not being nice.
We are all mothers. We are all growing life inside us but we never feed it so it can never be born. When it isn’t born, it dies and we wonder why we feel empty. We feel angry and we blame the mothers that are birthing life into the world through their words and ideas. We curse what we long for but can never touch.
If you sat in silence and listened to your inner mother, you would cry. But crying is the only way to shed our old skin that’s dying and slowly flaking off. You can’t rub it off, peel it off or force it off. So lay in that crystal river and let the rocks do it for you. Let the salt take your salt to the sea and console yourself in knowing you can’t recognize your tears from anyone else.
No one was in charge of keeping track of the time. Clocks are everywhere these days. Maybe he drinks too fast or maybe she drinks too slow. Earlier he fell asleep on the bus and she hadn’t eaten enough since breakfast and no one spoke for a comfortable amount of time. “We have four minutes,” she said, and paid the tab. “We won’t make it,” was his response, but they walked briskly as possible without falling into a trot and as soon as the train was visible they saw it was slowly gaining speed. One minute too late. Only a few seconds of hope remained that they had not missed the departure time but it was clear: they missed it. Another one came in an hour but disappointment soiled the afternoon pleasantness like a soiled diaper. Easily changed, but an uncomfortable smell in the meantime. They both felt the micro beer they had previously consumed tilting their heads to the beat of their own drums and they walked down the tracks. They found themselves in a kitschy bar, the waiter with all the right schtick and it was happy hour. They had found their friend Margarita without meaning to, though they had wondered where she hung out in this town previously in the day. She was good company and they laughed the hour away and finally found themselves on the right track home.
We are going to share a beautiful dream together—a dream that you will love to have all of the time. In this dream you are in the middle of a beautiful, warm sunny day. You hear the birds, the wind, and a little river. You walk toward the river. At the edge of the river is an old man in meditation, and you see that out of his head comes a beautiful light of different colors. You try not to bother him, but he notices your presence and opens his eyes. He has the kind of eyes that are full of love and a big smile. You ask him how he is able to radiate all that beautiful light. You ask him if he can teach you to do what he is doing. He replies that many, many, years ago he asked the same question of his teacher.
The old man begins to tell you his story: “My teacher opened his chest and took out his heart, and he took a beautiful flame from his heart. Then he opened my chest, opened my heart, and he put that little flame inside it. He put my heart back in my chest, and as soon as my heart was inside me, I felt intense love, because the flame he put in my heart was his own love.
“That flame grew in my heart and became a big, big fire—a fire that doesn’t burn, but purifies everything that it touches. And that fire touched each one of the cells of my body, and the cells of my body loved me back. I became one with my body, but my love grew even more. That fire touched every emotion of my mind, and all the emotions transformed into a strong and intense love. And I loved myself, completely and unconditionally.
“But the fire kept burning and I had the need to share my love. I decided to put a little piece of my love in every tree, and the trees loved me back, and I became one with the trees, but my love did not stop, it grew more. I put a piece of love in every flower, in the grass, in the earth and they loved me back, and we became one. And my love grew more and more to love every animal in the world. They responded to my love and they loved me back, and we became one. But my love kept growing and growing.
“I put a piece of my love in every crystal, in every stone in the ground, in the dirt, in the metals, and they loved me back, and I became one with the earth. And then I decided to put my love in the water, in the oceans, in the rivers, in the rain, in the snow. And they loved me back and we became one. And still my love grew more and more. I decided to give my love to the air, to the wind. I felt a strong communion with the earth, with the wind, with the oceans, with nature, and my love grew and grew.
“I turned my head to the sky, to the sun, to the stars, and put a little piece of my love in every star, in the moon, in the sun, and they loved me back. And I became one with the moon and the sun and the stars, and my love kept growing and growing. And I put a little piece of my love in every human, and I became one with the whole of humanity. Wherever I go, whomever I meet, I see myself in their eyes, because I am a part of everything, because I love.”
Excerpt from The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
There is a place of harmony. A place where the sun beams reach the dirt in a thunderstorm. It’s the trail left behind by a child’s roller-blades on the sidewalk and in the mind of a kitten when eating it’s first lap of stolen ice cream. It’s the silence in the morning, listening to birds sing. It’s reminding people they are loved by you and that you’ll never lose sight of their friendship. It’s been a good day and it’s only ten am. The clouds are dancing with the sun and creating a map through the blinds, warming my bed and then sending me back into filtered light. There is a snore on the floor and I yawn with peace and contentment. Before I fell asleep I imagined I had a sphere of love exiting my chest and I hoped it would travel to you so you could be comforted in knowing that you’re thought about. It can be so lonely to be a person in this world. We are spinning so fast, hurdling through the cosmos and only a handful of individuals know your name, let alone your favorite dessert or can sing you your favorite song. That’s why I send my sphere of love. Because we all feel lonely. We all feel forgotten and lost and completely minute in the face of it all. And we should. We should in fact bask in the awe of it, give all of ourselves and our love and every motion to it. Because you are no more lost or forgotten than the stars themselves.
It had already hit me: shit sucks. My friends are getting older. Some are afraid because they are getting married and the other half are scared because they aren’t getting married. My parents are getting older. My dog is getting older. I am getting older. I recently read a post by a friend that said: Today is the youngest you’ll ever be and the oldest you’ve ever been, so enjoy it. And maybe it was supposed make me feel light heart-ed, but I felt heavier than ever and I just shook my head. I found myself yelling at the lady in the car in front of me because she was cleaning out her car by throwing her trash out the window. It infuriated me and I was yelling at her, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” Because not only was she nonchalantly littering, she was swerving all over the road because her arms were reaching toward the ground, picking up pieces of paper. Then I found myself frantically looking around asking everyone what they were doing. I don’t get it. Why are you driving? Why am I driving? This is so unnatural. But what feels natural? I don’t know anymore. Nothing is the answer. My head was spinning and when I got home I was angered by the mundane of my house. Angered by coming home to a dog and a cat that were just sitting there, looking at me. “I don’t have anything for you, I don’t have anything for anyone, not even myself.” But they don’t understand English and it made me want to cry. I told my mom I felt like I was on a roller coaster and I never know if I should put my hands in the air or hold on tight and her answer was: “or get off the roller coaster”, but I don’t know how. Does she know how? I didn’t ask. I wanted to ask if it ever gets easier but I was afraid of the answer. If she said yes, I’d be asking when. If she said no, I would feel defeated but maybe also relieved. Sometimes disappointment is relieving, because you can kind of shrug your shoulders and say, oh well, and move on. That’s where the difficult part happens though: move on to what? To the ebb and flow of life? I don’t want to. That’s why I am sitting here wishing someone would say it for me. Wishing someone would say: Fuck this. Wishing someone would grab my hand and walk me out the door and remind me that my head is not spinning, we are all spinning together and it’s a miracle the water stays where it is and a miracle that nothing is hitting me in the face, even though it feels like gravity is punching me in the stomach. I might not ever drink coffee again.
Things are scattered everywhere. Clothes, books, movies, shoes. I double check to make sure the porch light is on and I keep turning the music down because I don’t really want to listen to it but this silence gives me goosebumps. I’ve lived alone in this apartment for 9 months. My dog got depressed after there were no extra humans to pet him or other dogs to play with so I got a cat. I’m glad he doesn’t step on her anymore. Nighttime here is always the loudest. The cat frantically runs around knocking things off the shelves, the heater hisses and the hot water heater boils but I no longer think it’s going to explode. I often wish I lived somewhere I could take walks when I can’t sleep. I wish the streets were lined in lanterns and there were always flowers blooming in someone’s yard. I wish men tipped their hats and I could hear children laughing somewhere behind me. But not on the night walks. Those would be silent and my only company would be the moon. I’d watch it’s reflection dance in the river until my eyelids were heavy and I would head home, back down the lantern streets that leads directly to sleep.