Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone;
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
Sigh, it is lost on the air;
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
But shrink from voicing care.
Solitude. Ella Wheeler Wilcox
For those who have followed my blog for some time you will know that I try and keep it positive for the most part. But I also try and keep it real. I cannot see the point of writing bullshit there is enough of that out in the world already.
The excerpt above is from one of my favourite poems, Solitude. It says it all about the world even though it was written over a hundred years ago. We all shy away from sadness, how many times have you been told that ‘you’re being morbid’? Or to ‘snap out of it.’
Many years ago I learned that to truly move forward in life, when it has dealt you a debilitating blow, is to accept where you are. To allow yourself to feel your pain, accept your pain, and only then does it truly become less. I wrote about it in my other blog and you can read it here.
So I think that is important that I write this post because many of us feel that we should never allow the sadness to be there. We damage ourselves even more by trying to maintain that illusion.
One of the things I learned from the Tao is that there has to be balance, no matter how hard that is to accept. Where there is sun there has to be rain, where there is warmth there has to be cold, where there is good there has to be evil, where there is life there has to be death, and where there is happiness there has to be sadness.
For probably the last two weeks I have felt enormous sadness. The type that just creeps up behind you and over you like a wave. I have tried to ‘put a brave face on it.’ Told myself that I had to keep the energy positive to keep Wiglet (who is currently snoring beside me) with us for longer. It is so clear that when the energy in our house is sad she goes down, and when we pick it up she picks back up. (I have lost count of how many times I have sung The Twist to her to bring myself back up and her with me.)
But no matter how many times I told myself that where there is life there is death, that my energy is powerful, the sadness would just pull back like a wave and then come back again more powerful than before. I would find myself driving to work with tears brimming in my eyes. I would immerse myself in work but because I was not as busy as I would like the sadness could creep up often, and even when I became busy I would suddenly find tears pricking my eyes.
You may have all noticed that I have been finding it difficult to write, because I haven’t blogged in ages. I understand now it was because I needed to write this post and not worry about the people who may stop reading because the subject matter was just too ‘miserable’ for them.
Where I found myself was a hard place to be.
But then a few things happened. Firstly a friend picked up from an innocuous post on social media that I was struggling, and she called me. I cried, no matter how much I tried not to, the tears would not stop. She suggested that I was putting my ‘work head’ on all day and then coming home and putting my ‘positive, happy head’ on when I got home to maintain the upbeat energy in my house. As she explained I was, quite simply, not giving myself time to feel what I was feeling at any time, and I was burning myself out. So the following week on my way home from work I allowed myself to accept my sadness and I cried as I drove home. And after twenty minutes of allowing the tears to flow, in that little world we all have in our car, I stopped.
Then a few days later a card arrived from another dear friend, and in it she had written the simple words ‘I am sorry that you’re feeling a little low. You’re always in my thoughts and I’m just a phone call away.’ It meant so much. She knew I was retreating from others, that I needed my own solace to deal with my sadness. But knowing she was there was a small gift, she was not afraid of my sadness and would share it with me when I needed her to. And she has, they both have, and they have both cried with me.
‘Life’ however has done her bit for me as always. A few months ago whilst browsing the library at work for Deepak Chopra (the book, not the man) I randomly (although we all know it isn’t random at all) picked up a book called ‘The Grief Club’ by Melody Beattie. This was way before Wiglet’s terminal diagnosis. I looked at the back cover and thought it sounded interesting, but hey I didn’t need a book about grief, my life was good, perfect in fact. So I went back to my desk, but something made me go back and pick that book up and bring it home. It is not a book about death, it is a book about grief, and how it comes to us all in so many forms throughout our lives.
In the last weeks I have read two things in that book that have helped me to understand my sadness. The first one confirmed something that I had come to believe but didn’t realise had already been written about by Kahlil Gibran in his book ‘The Prophet.’:
‘Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself…. You may give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow…’
I said only a month or so ago that really the words son, mum, dad, daughter, brother sister are just that: words. Labels that we have given to other people when in fact we are all just people. To quote Melanie Beattie ‘Our children don’t belong to us. Our parents aren’t ‘ours’. We’re all people, human beings walking down the street.’
I realised as I read this that we all add expectations to those labels, those roles and we constantly judge people because of the labels we have given to them. Then when the people fall short, because they are people, we judge them again.
But more than that we allow ourselves to be those labels, we try and fulfill those expectations. Why? More mental health issues are caused by ‘family’ than any other scenario, when it is quite simple: We are all just people.
I thought back to how many times I have been judged because of the labels I have acquired over the years, and I realised that I am no-longer prepared to for that to happen to me. I am nearly sixty, I am me, Moira, you can take me or leave me, but that is all I can be.
When I read the chapter entitled ‘Time Changes: The Empty Nest and Other Rites of Passage.’ it was a revelation to me because I realised that RD and I had made a new life after our son left home. We had built a life based on adventures and a family that consisted of animals, and in the thick of that family was Harley and Wiglet. They had become our kids, and I know that some others that love their animals will understand that. But more than that for the first time in our lives we had a family of beings that simply loved us unconditionally without judgement. Now that was about to change.
And I understood my overwhelming sadness, and I accepted it.
Rosie (aka Moira)