A New Friend

I’ve begun to befriend sadness.

Yesterday morning I went downtown, for no reason other than cabin fever. The cabin fever that sets in, with ruthless regularity, at exactly 9 every morning.

9 am to 3 pm (in other words, the lion’s share of what is normatively most people’s workday) are a tough time of the day for me – or at least, it’s become that during COVID. A time when I have to remind myself to breathe through the heaviness.

I shouldn’t feel this way, I tell myself. I shouldn’t need to have meetings, I shouldn’t need to have places to go in order to feel semi-whole. Aren’t I well-read on Buddhism? Don’t I meditate regularly?

I should be okay with emptiness. Even welcome it, invite it in.

I never thought emptiness could feel this heavy.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about my teenage infatuation with Ayn Rand and how deeply some of her ideas, despite myself, have stuck with me – especially her dictum that the “natural” state of life is constant motion and activity, and that to deviate from this state (save to sleep, which presumably even the Goddess of the Market deemed necessary) is to embrace death and stagnation.

My sadness, I can assume, is because my subconscious holds that premise. And it holds another, even more horrible, premise: that I’m only as good as what I produce.

Of course, every public utterance I can remember making on this issue has preached the exact opposite. I’m known publicly as a good lefty and among friends as compassionate and easygoing. But what I preach and believe to be true for others, I’ve never believed for myself. I don’t honestly believe I’m worth more than what I produce (the subject of another entry).

Long story short: the sadness has been immense.

Last week I saw the sadness, acknowledged its presence and named it. And I began to feel less empty because I realized I was never empty at all.

Coz there’s nothing empty about sadness. It’s replete with love and passion and values.

I’m sad because the hustle and bustle I love about urban life is on hiatus.

I’m sad because the live plays, dance performances, readings and concerts I love are on hiatus.

I’m sad because I miss sex, the giving and taking of physical affirmation.

I’m sad that I hate the city I love because I’ve been stuck here the last two years.

I’m sad that our current public health crisis is being turned into a fascist shit-show by a denialist, retrograde, white supremacist fringe.

I’m sad about the sadness emanating from virtually everyone around me.

So sadness is not emptiness. It’s profound proof that we’re alive.

I’ve not been in right relationship with sadness, never properly honoured its presence in my life. I find it easier to talk about my struggles with anxiety and OCD, but depression – whether clinical or situational – has been like Voldemort: mention it, and danger will follow.

In this case, the danger of feeling like you have nothing to live for.

I guess I’m gun shy. I’ve had two major mental crashes in my life – both triggered by anxiety but spilling over into depression, exacerbated by fear and loathing of what I was feeling.

I’ve since realized it wasn’t the feeling itself, but my take on the feeling, that careened me into despair.

I’m not supposed to feel this. I was born to create, produce, do.

Sadness is anything but empty. It’s an organic response to values we need to either affirm or rethink.

Sadness can motor us to clarify what we want from the world and what we can give it.

Sadness can be spiritual fuel. Sadness can be bread.

So, since last week, the emptiness has dissipated. While I still have my moments, I’m breathing easier and feeling lighter – lifted, edified and mentored. By sadness.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: