Reflections on Sadness

Before dawn I was woken by a very sad little girl.
Lately I’ve noticed a strange melancholy in both my children that I remember in myself around the same age. I’m not sure if children pick up on sadness from living in a house with chronic illness, or from the depression of the parents (more likely), but it deepens my own sadness that this seems to be a legacy I have passed on. My daughter in particular asks questions such as, “are you and Papa going to die the way your mom and dad did?”
My husband says, “no, of course not. We will always be with you.”
I, unwilling to trust the backhandedness of life, say, “I hope not,” but try to reassure her she will always be taken care of.
And, I think grimly, no wonder she’s sad. I wonder if I should be so forthright and realistic with her, precocious as she is at age five. I wonder which is kinder: the promise we can’t keep, or the certain reality that one day we will die, though metaphysically, of course we will always be with her. We made her precious tiny human self, and so are ever and always connected: inexorably part of each other. Can she be secure in our intangible love when she craves the security of our physical presence?
This morning she huddled next to me in bed, crying that she would miss her brother when he grows up. Her mean older brother, who teases her, picks on her, calls her names, and is subversively jealous of her, in spite of our best efforts to teach and encourage him otherwise. She will miss him, and dreads being parted from him.
Such is the nature of sweet spirits.
I know so many young women who carry a heavy burden of sadness. And so many of them, too, are sweet spirits, undeserving of so much sorrow.
After being disappointed with my efforts to comfort my daughter, I carried a trace of sorrowful miasma with me through the rest of the day. Going on social media deepened it until I could wear it like a coat.
Finally, my ponderings outweighed my personal reserve, and I wrote a post about it. Almost immediately, there was a reaction, with surprised and almost irritated me. Then I realized it was one of the young women I know, one who has more than her own share of sorrow to carry. She was sharing in ours. I was deeply touched by the simple expression of an emoji reaction–though as a rule, I am dismissive, almost scornful of trying to relate through emoji expressions. This was different.
It brought my thoughts back to my recent blog on kindness. It made me think how valuable those small gestures are, especially when we are suffering with our own burdens, fighting our own demons of depression, poverty, frustration…how much we can give each other.
My daughter and I got through our day, and it would have been hard to tell she began it in tears. Both children played–reasonably nicely–together, and went to bed peacefully and happily–after I read them three or four bedtime stories, and completed our evening ritual of evening prayers, kisses, hugs, tucking in, and one last “good night” prayer.
And as the small gesture I received meant so much to me, I try to bring a little more mindfulness to my parenting, of all those little things that mean so much to children. Especially since I won’t be here forever.

It used to worry when when my children expressed sadness, but as I considered it more, I realized several things:

My husband and I both come from melancholy families. It seems a certain amount of pensive melancholia is inescapable.

But more significant is the role of sadness in the human experience. too little acknowledgement of sadness in our lives could be denial. too much, a sign of depression.

But in general, sorrow is merely part of the human experience, rolling over us in waves or cycles much like any other human emotion, coming to go again, to come again, and so on.

I think what is more telling about us is how we use that experience to relate to others. Knowing sadness ourselves, do we hunker down around it, feeling sorry for ourselves, or do we use that point of reference to reach out to others, extending empathy to them in any small way we can?

Thank you, my friend.

 

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Reflections on Kindness….and Coffee

She limped into the coffeeshop, the heavy fracture boot throwing her walk askew.
“What happened to you?” the young man behind the counter asked, with a tone of genuine concern.
She was taken aback. Why would he care? He was young, good-looking, and could easily afford to be self-absorbed if he chose. She was–a wreck. Young, too, but she didn’t feel it any more. Her scars ran deep.
“Well,” he seemed oddly at a loss for words, “I’m–glad you’re alive!”ravens-prayer2
She was startled, but there was a place deep in the pit of her stomach that flip-flopped even as she felt an embarrassed gratitude. He wasn’t flirting, and she wasn’t trying to make something out of it. It was compassion, and she was grateful for it.
How many times have I said “hello” to someone, especially someone older than myself, and found them brighten in response. As I near 40, it occurs to me with some chagrin that I am now on the receiving end of those young day-brighteners.
And have you ever met with a friend for coffee, and while talking learned of her deep struggles, her life-changing decisions?
I often think that sometimes the best thing we can do is be kind (though let’s exclude one-liner quotes we might find on teabags). For all our web connectedness, we are missing out on personal human interaction. Even offline, we are all so busy we don’t have time to put away our phones and sit down with people–just to talk. Just to say Hi. Just to have a cup of coffee.
Reflecting on the value of kindness. I keep meeting people who just need to hear a kind word, have someone take an interest and care. I think about all the times someone did that for me, especially when I was struggling with depression. Sometimes it means the world.

The girl in the coffeeshop never forgot the barista’s kind words, even after her leg was long healed. There are enough Unkindness-es in life. Words (or lack therof) and actions can keep the world harsh and cold, or shine a light in a dark time. All it takes it one minute of genuine kindness.

Hmm, I should pitch that to Yogi Teas….