Do you fend off sadness by getting angry? I do.

A series of escalating circumstances in my family this week deeply saddened me. They brought up fears of loss, and feelings of betrayal and hopelessness. I was frustrated about being out of control of the events, and very worried about possible outcomes. The stakes are high.

All these feelings still linger. Sorry Serene Nation, I’m not feeling it today.

In my usual fashion, I stuffed this deep, deep sadness and instead, got really angry. That didn’t hurt me as much. It also didn’t help the situation at all, but made it much worse.

My emotions arrived in this order: shock, betrayal, worry, anger, frustration, sorrow, anger, sorrow, anger, sorrow, sorrow, sorrow, compassion… and then sorrow again. I cried for two days and probably will continue for another two at least. This is not like me. Usually I set in at anger and then I have to “do” something about the situation—fix it or someone—to make it feel better for me. Emotions. Unfortunately, we need them.

This time, I decided it was OK just to be sad. For as long as I need to be. It was also OK for other people to have their own emotions. I apologized, and felt a tiny bit better.

Why is it so hard to move through sadness? Maybe it isn’t that way for you, but I tend to carry it with me. Energy healers have told me they can see or sense it. For me it has something to do with embarrassment; I don’t like for others to see me sad. It is also my most painful emotion, and therefore I avoid it at all costs. I’m sure there are some experiences in my past to reinforce this, and I’m doing the archeology on that.

This year I’ve been trying extra hard to release my sadness by allowing myself to just be with it rather than covering it up with anger. I do it in private, and I do it in front of others. I talk about it. I write about it. I have to say, until this week I thought I was getting better at it. I hate when it surprises me.

I am always comforted by Kahlil Gibran’s wisdom on joy and sorrow (from “The Prophet“):

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, “Joy is greater thar sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

I get impatient when the feeling gets stuck. I want these emotions to flow through me and be gone. But I guess that’s not the way it works. Maybe it’s more like waves that gradually subside to still water.

Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.

I really must remember this when others are feeling sad. There is no quick fix—just moments where there is no sadness, then minutes, then maybe an hour. Maybe someday sadness will visit only from time to time. A single tear in each passing year. *

Postscript: Writing is cathartic. 12 hours after publishing this post, my sadness is nearly gone. I won’t be surprised (this time) if it returns on appropriate occasions, but it is a relief not to be consumed by it.

*Follow You Follow Me. Songwriters: Mike Rutherford, Tony Banks, and Phil Collins.

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