It is the damnedest thing… Sometimes it just hits me, seemingly out of nowhere. Real, palpable sadness.
I have never dealt with true depression in the clinical sense. The kind that you can’t wiggle and twist your way out of no matter what you do. That brand of deep, lasting, and relentless sadness that just clings to your mind like unkind, cold, rain-soaked clothing to your crying skin when you’re stuck outside in a storm, locked out of your own house, banging on the front door to be let in, with no one inside to hear your desperate plea.
I have a few good friends that struggle with that kind of depression. I am very sorry that they do and very thankful that I don’t.
But sadness, we all deal with that to a greater or lesser extent.
I am quite a happy guy in general. Optimistic too, but not to the point of self-delusion.
Yet, even with my normal, sunny disposition, sadness can creep into me at times. It is usually unexpected and visits at its own leisure, no appointment having been made ahead of time.
That was the case late tonight, or rather, this very early morning, only a bit after midnight. Nothing has the ability to stir my deepest parts like music. As I was doing a bit of ebay listing after the kids went to bed, I popped my earbuds in to listen to some tunes without keeping anyone awake. I listened to a bit of this and that on YouTube: Flatbush Zombies, Yelawolf, Kid Astro, etc, etc. I list fastest when banging hip-hop and rap in my ear holes.
Then, as I was finishing up, I randomly clicked over on, “Brick,” by Ben Folds Five. That was all it took. By the time I got to Regina Spektor, not with any intention of bringing on a cathartic experience, the sadness came to visit. It really didn’t have anything to do with the songs specifically. Just a flurry of micro-memories, flickers of past moments, thoughts, anticipations, and the utter and unavoidable gravity of just existing hit me all at once. Not only that, but the fact that it all goes away some day. Much like the arrival of sadness, mortality doesn’t tend to make appointments either.
As I have been editing the second draft of my new book, “Love is the Middle,” about my relationship with my deceased father, memories of him are frequent. Tonight, the reality of my current life, part of which includes the void his death created, came to mind. The overwhelming joy of being a father to my five kids crashed right into my lament over being a fatherless son like dissonant chords. I also considered the fact that one day, my wife and the love of my life, will either leave me behind on this side of death’s veil or I will leave her. (A desirable and tidy Notebook movie ending aside). Altogether, three things hit me at once: sadness over lost people that I love, knowing what I love now will not always be, and as Christopher Hitchens once eloquently said about death,
“It will happen to all of us, that at some point you get tapped on the shoulder and told, not just that the party’s over, but slightly worse: the party’s going on — but you have to leave. And it’s going on without you.”
So, what can we do when those truths about our mortality, our love, our loss, and more losses to come show up front and center? How do we handle the times when our feelings of joy, happiness, and contentment are interrupted and invaded by sadness?
I will give you the best advice I have, right from “behind the lines” of some present sadness in real time… Embrace it. Don’t shuck it off in a premature fashion. Let it burn a while and do its work. Sadness, even the deepest sadness, is a necessary part of life. In a strange, ironic way, it is a good part of life. Not the best part by far, but a good part. Sadness is an honest friend, reminding you and I not to take time, things, and most importantly, people, for granted. Sadness says to us, “Friend- you will not have all of this forever. It is only for a while at best. So, wring your life out for every last drop, bitter or sweet. Many billions have come and gone and do not have the present privilege of treading on the lively side of the green grass on this earth. You do. Don’t waste this moment. Don’t waste this day. Love someone. And, by the way… don’t forget to start with yourself.”
Thank you, sadness, for stopping by. I didn’t expect to see you today, but it has been real.
I’ll leave you good people with a song. Before I decided to share all of this with you kind friends and strangers, “How,” hit me right in the feels.
Humanity is as the surface of a vast pond
Being visibly stirred and moved by the actions of individuals
As one passerby casually tossed a stone in, then walked away
I saw that the ripples continued long after he was there to behold them
Going this way and that
Expanding in influence from the place where they began
So my friend
Find the largest and best stone you can
And cast it purposefully into the pond
Let its ripples roll to affect
And to be affected by those of others
Throw it high, throw it hard
So that even after your tenure at the pond is over
Still its ripples will roll
And even in death
Your life will whisper
What you yelled
While your lungs still owned breath
Remind yourself today
That this will not be forever
Your transient and brief pilgrimage on the lively side of earth’s soil is short
And the length of its precarious song, uncertain
Yet, while you live, make yourself at home
Do your worst to do your best
In the eons that came before you
Nothing of you was known
But for now, you are
And when it comes that you are not
Let not the latter condition of things
Be as the state of the former
When nothing of you had ever been whispered
Leave not this world in an underwhelmed state
Or indifferent and unmoved at your remembrance
As surely as you are here now
You will not be in one hundred years
Do not hide your face from that fact
Or be afraid to face it
This is the common story of billions who have passed
It will be for the billions who live now
And for billions more who will be born
Every one of us is not but the whisper of the century to come
Let us treat the world kindly while we live
So it will whisper kindly of us
When we have turned to dust
Copyright 2013-Luke Austin Daugherty