“I’m sad,” I said to my husband on the phone as I sat in my car waiting for my children to pile in during carpool. He said, “what?” I said, “I’m just so sad right now.” Of course, my knight in shining armor wanted to rush to my defense and fix it for me, but he couldn’t. Absolutely, he wanted to, so he continued to ask me what was bothering me. And being the heavy-duty vocalizer that I normally am, you would think that I could tell him exactly what it was; but I couldn’t because at that time, I really didn’t know. However, in that moment, I was trying to acknowledge that my body felt heavy-hearted and I felt compelled to shout it just to release it, “I’M SAD!”
“I’m sad” is a sentence you know. True, it is only two words, but it is a sentence nonetheless, and a powerful one at that. On that particular day, when I said the words out loud, it forced me to look at it and tackle it head on. I had to take the emotion that was swirling about in a disguise and face it. I didn’t want to, because to admit that I was sad would go against everything that I believed about myself. By admitting sadness, I was also admitting failure, defeat, and weakness. In essence, I was allowing my emotions to get the better of me. I am a happy person, I am confident, I am positive, and I am strong. Why was I letting sadness creep in and steal my joy? How dare I allow it? But there it was, alive and well in my body; truly in my body. You know the familiar sensations of sadness; a heaviness in the heart, many times involving tears, sometimes anger, and unfortunately for me head throbbing physical pain and even at times, nausea. Sadness is sometimes so strong that it creates an absolute debilitating lifelessness inside. We want so badly for the feeling to flee us that we do almost anything to make it go away. We self-talk it to death and try to convince ourselves that we are not sad. We numb it away with external remedies: retail therapy, alcohol, food, exercise, anti-depressants; because we just don’t have time to invite it in and have a pity party.
There was a time in my life where I unknowingly chose to shrink sadness and pain with perfectionism and over ambition which are as dangerous as anything else you could come up with. It looked like this: out-perform everyone, out-work everyone- oh, and make sure you look good doing it! When I felt moments of sadness, I would quickly turn my attention from it and jump into something else that could distract me. At any time, and for big and small sad moments, I would buy new clothes and shoes, I would start researching a new car that I absolutely HAD to have, I would book a dinner at a fancy restaurant, I would call a neighbor and request a social gathering all in the name of a rotten day. All of this was easily justified as “self-care,” and only provided a temporary fix. I just needed to be distracted and free from feeling the emotion that had crept up.
The thing about pain is that we don’t want to feel it and we don’t want to admit it. All we know is that we just don’t like it and we want it out!
But here’s the deal, once you start on a path toward self-discovery and self-awareness, you cannot become undiscovered or unaware! So here I sat in my car on the phone with my husband while the feeling of sadness was alive in my spirit. What was I going to do about it? I had two choices: I could shove it down and pretend it wasn’t there or I could just face it by slowing down and allowing myself to feel it. Had I chosen to silence it, the end result could have looked like just another bad day with a sharp tongue toward my husband or children, or it may have looked like a night filled with social media distraction, or even tv binge watching.
I did just the thing that I have tried for most of my adult life not to do, I invited the feeling in. I asked sadness to come on in, pull up a chair, and take a seat so that we could visit. I needed to figure out what was causing this feeling that had taken me over that day. So, I sat in sadness, in sunken despair and I paid attention to it like a friend, not my enemy. The only way to get rid of sadness is to learn from it and let it go. As I sat with it and let it be my teacher, I realized that the source of my sadness that particular day was rooted in loneliness. I felt lonely and defeated in my season of change. Being three months in to a move 500 miles from home, I was lonely for my old life, my friends and family, and the familiarity of home. This was not weakness or failure or defeat. This was a real emotion rooted in a truly normal human experience. This was simply a time that I needed to acknowledge that I missed home and that it was perfectly ok. I needed to invite sadness over for a visit so that I could spend a moment thinking about all of the people and places that had brought me joy in my life and discern why I missed them so much. It reminded me of my humanness and my personal need to be connected to the people that I love. Inviting sadness to “hang out” was a gift and it allowed me to move past it and take on a true feeling of gratefulness.
The time came later that night for sadness to leave, so I graciously and politely escorted it out of my being. I thanked it for showing up and for teaching me about myself and my needs. I gave myself grace and responded to myself in a loving way. Gone are the days that I stuff sadness in the background and try to replace it with things that are not good for me. There is beauty in embracing sadness, loneliness, and grief. It can become one of life’s greatest teachers. Next time you hear sadness knocking at your door give yourself permission to experience it; sit a while with it and become its student.