I had an interesting experience recently, to say the least. After running some errands, I decided to sit on a bench in a quiet, secluded park to relax and reflect. I was surrounded by nature—birds chirping, squirrels scurrying—with the warm sun on my face. And yet, I felt alone.
Suddenly, I heard a voice. “Hello!”
I turned my head, but there was nothing there. “Huh,” I thought, “I could’ve sworn I heard something.”
“HELL-OH!” It was louder this time.
I swung all the way around. “Who’s saying that?” I said to no one.
“Oh, good. You heard me,” came the reply. The voice sounded more masculine than feminine, with a lower pitch—presumably, as I realized later, so my hearing-impaired self could hear it.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“I am sadness.”
“I’m your sadness. I live inside you.”
“Ha!” I snickered. “Is this some kind of joke?”
“I don’t joke. I’m sad.”
“Oh, right,” I answered, then muttered under my breath, “This is ridiculous.” I rubbed my forehead and thought, “I’m finally cracking up. Wait until I tell my therapist about this.”
“Stop ignoring me!”
“Um, hello!” said the voice. “I don’t like being ignored. We were having a conversation!”
I looked up at the sky with exasperation. “This is absurd,” I said out loud. “I’m talking to an invisible voice that says it lives inside me, while I’m sitting in a suburban Massachusetts park!”
It didn’t answer.
“OK. Let’s get to the bottom of this. You’re my sadness, personified?”
“So, what exactly do you want from me?”
“I want to get you to stop ignoring me!”
“But I’m not. I don’t feel like being sad right now!”
“Ah, but you were. You were sitting here in the sun on this glorious day, in a gorgeous park teeming with wildlife, flowers all around. But a twinge of sadness presented itself and you immediately shut me off.” It snapped invisible fingers. “Just like that!”
“So, you do it all the time!”
“OK, you’re right. I do. I hate feeling sad—it makes me feel like crap, so I fill my head with other things. Busy thoughts like shopping, laundry, what I’ll have for dinner, the fact that my nails need trimming.”
“Yeah, I know,” the voice sneered. “And it’s bullshit. You’ve been doing this for like, forever!”
“Since when?” I asked, curious.
“Oh, since you were little.”
“I’ve been sad ever since then?”
“Yes! In fact, I wonder if you can even recall all the things that made you sad, because you’ve so effectively shut them out. Go ahead. See if you can remember when you first felt sad.”
“Hmm, well I don’t know when I first felt sad, but I can think of a few things that happened when I was quite young. Like when I was five and I was at the Children’s Hospital for tests. My Mom stayed in a hotel. She came to visit me every day and I know she felt bad leaving me there. I was so sad, I cried every night. So the nurse had to wheel my crib into a large closet and shut the door because I was keeping the other kids awake. It was awful. And then there were all the times my brother would leave on the train to go back to school, and I would cry like my heart was breaking.”
It’s OK to acknowledge sadness
Sadness was quiet for a while, and then said softly, “I know. It was very hard for you, but you did the best you could.”
“Yeah,” I replied. “I should give myself some credit for that.”
“That’s the attitude!” it said.
“So now my sadness is trying to cheer me up? Isn’t that an oxymoron?” I laughed. Sadness didn’t laugh with me, though, and I wished it had.
“OK, so what advice do you have for me? What can I do?”
“Without sadness, you wouldn’t have those other qualities that make you special, like compassion, empathy, even love.”
“My advice is that you should always acknowledge my presence. It’s OK to feel me. You can even talk to me. Maybe say, ‘Hey, you just kind of crept up on me, you sneaky devil, you! But thanks for stopping by.'”
I almost laughed at the sarcasm. “Well, I guess you decided to talk to me today because you care about me.”
“Yes, I do. And you need to care about me too. I’m here because I help make you human. Without sadness, you wouldn’t have those other qualities that make you special, like compassion, empathy, even love.”
“Well, you know when you see a sad movie and you tear up? At that moment, you’re letting yourself feel the sorrow. Then, you realize what a great movie it was, and you may think about it for some time afterward. And maybe it changes you for the better by making you more aware, more compassionate.”
I thought about that for a minute. “OK, that makes sense. But, what about being sad at a funeral? That’s just painful!”
“Yes, of course. But you can reach out to another and console them. By showing love, you’re fulfilling your true reason for being here.”
“Wow, you’re deep!”
“Thanks!” my sadness replied, and I envisioned it smiling. Then I realized that sadness doesn’t smile. Or does it? After all, the sun often comes out while it’s still raining, and sometimes there’s a beautiful rainbow at the same time.
“I have to get going now, but I just want to say thanks for caring enough about me to talk to me today. I promise I won’t ignore you or push you away anymore. I’ll be fully aware when you visit and we can have a conversation, OK?”
“Works for me!”
“Are you coming with me?”
“Nah. I’m going to sit here and watch the wildlife. You go ahead.”
“But, aren’t you always with me?”
“No, just when you’re sad.”
“Oh, right.” I shook my head, chuckling softly as I walked down the path that would take me home.
«RELATED READ» THE MOUSE AND THE DANDELION: Lessons in life and love»