Sitting with Unexpected Sadness
It’s Monday and I arrived at my co-working space ready to have a peaceful and productive day. I made myself coffee, plugged in my computer, and said hi to a few friends. I opened my computer to get started and… WHAM… a crushing, unexpected sadness hit me in the chest.
My mind started its spinning.
Where is this coming from?
I don’t want to feel like this.
Did I do something wrong?
How do I make this go away?
Overcome, I looked up from my computer and noticed a small round sticker that I’d never noticed before. It said, simply, ‘Forget Everything You Know’.
Amidst the melancholy, I smiled to myself. Sometimes this infinite Universe really knows how to give you what you need.
I thought about everything I know about sadness. I thought about being told at a young age that crying should be private, I thought about all of the clickbait and self-help trouping ‘the CURE for depression’ and ‘1895768 ways to be happy all the time’.
In that moment, I was being asked to forget all of that, forget everything I knew about sadness and just be in it. I lowered the screen, sat back in my chair, and let it consume me to the point that a worried story train started chugging in my head ‘oh no, this is it, this is the one that’s going to last forever’. I let it pass.
I sat and sat, for seconds that felt like hours. Minutes that felt like time zones.
The sadness settled in the pit of my stomach, then twirled around in my esophagus, it rose and pierced my ears, finally settling into small pools in the corner of my eyes. Two forceful, weighty tears streamed down my face slow and dramatic. I allowed them to reach my chin before brushing them away.
I looked around and felt strangely renewed. Had all that surprise pain really needed only two tears worth of release?
My mind and body settled and I felt my focus return.
There is a beautiful poem by one of my favorite writers, Nayirrah Waheed. It goes…
Like you expect the rain.
Both cleanse you.
Being human is a sublime and devastating experience. We encounter suffering every day, we see death each moment, we age, we lose, we rage. We are swirling in a constant cycle of life, death, and rebirth. How could we not embrace sadness like we embrace joy? There cannot be one without the other.
There have been and will be many times when I choose to numb and run from the feeling I felt today. There will also be more times when I simply sit and allow it to express, without judgment. The beautiful part is that I know that two tears worth of unexpected pain have made room in my body for a nesting of unexpected joy.
I think I’m feeling it right now.