Have You Ever Been Sad?

How would you answer that question?

Would you say yes, plainly and clearly? Or would you mumble your assent uncomfortably? Or would you be stuck dumb unable to utter the yes you want to because you feel there is something wrong with you if you admit to being sad? Is it because you also feel that…

Sadness is a vice.― Gustave Flaubert

…? Or would you turn belligerent and and say “I WILL BE OKAY- is that what you want me to say?!” Or would you bite your lips, fight back your tears fiercely, look me defiantly in the eye and say, “Sad? I’m not sad! Who said I was?!”

I wonder why we feel so upset about sadness. Imagine becoming uptight about having brown eyes, or a mole at the corner of your mouth, or the fact that rain makes you want to dance. What use is it, this getting upset over something as universal and ordinary about sadness? This…. shame… that we feel about sadness makes us want to shut it up somewhere so it won’t be seen or heard from. It skewers something within us and turns it misshapen and ugly because we would cram something into a hole; something which can’t be- shouldn’t be- crammed. The bard cautioned us about it and said:

Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break. ― William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Or else we carry them around in public and:

The only sadnesses that are dangerous and unhealthy are the ones that we carry around in public in order to drown them out with the noise; like diseases that are treated superficially and foolishly, they just withdraw and after a short interval break out again all the more terribly; and gather inside us and are life, are life that is unlived, rejected, lost, life that we can die of.― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

In a way that isn’t surprising because people always try to placate you with empty platitudes forgetting that:

It is a grave injustice to a child or adult to insist that they stop crying. One can comfort a person who is crying which enables him to relax and makes further crying unnecessary; but to humiliate a crying child is to increase his pain, and augment his rigidity. We stop other people from crying because we cannot stand the sounds and movements of their bodies. It threatens our own rigidity. It induces similar feelings in ourselves which we dare not express and it evokes a resonance in our own bodies which we resist.― Alexander Lowen, The Voice of the Body

The truth is:

Emotions, in my experience, aren’t covered by single words. I don’t believe in “sadness,” “joy,” or “regret.” Maybe the best proof that the language is patriarchal is that it oversimplifies feeling. I’d like to have at my disposal complicated hybrid emotions, Germanic train-car constructions like, say, “the happiness that attends disaster.” Or: “the disappointment of sleeping with one’s fantasy.” I’d like to show how “intimations of mortality brought on by aging family members” connects with “the hatred of mirrors that begins in middle age.” I’d like to have a word for “the sadness inspired by failing restaurants” as well as for “the excitement of getting a room with a minibar.” I’ve never had the right words to describe my life, and now that I’ve entered my story, I need them more than ever. ― Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex

Sadness wouldn’t upset us if we made room for it within us:

Have you got any soul?” a woman asks the next afternoon. That depends, I feel like saying; some days yes, some days no. A few days ago I was right out; now I’ve got loads, too much, more than I can handle. I wish I could spread it a bit more evenly, I want to tell her, get a better balance, but I can’t seem to get it sorted. I can see she wouldn’t be interested in my internal stock control problems though, so I simply point to where I keep the soul I have, right by the exit, just next to the blues.― Nick Hornby, High Fidelity

And when it threatens to overwhelm us, run us over and drown us; when we are in the middle of a storm of sadness, if we would only ask ourselves:

I remember asking myself one night, while I was curled up in the same old corner of my same old couch in tears yet again over the same old repetition of sorrowful thoughts, ‘Is there ANYTHING about this scene you can change, Liz?’ And all I could think to do was stand up, whle still sobbing, and try to balance on one foot in the middle of the living room. Just to prove that – while I couldn’t stop the tears or change my dismal interior dialogue – I was not yet totally out of control: at least I could cry hysterically while balanced on one foot. ― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

Moreover, with time you not only realize, but accept- accept in that silent, wondrous part of our soul- that:

The older I get, the more I see there are these crevices in life where things fall in and you just can’t reach them to pull them back out. So you can sit next to them and weep or you can get up and move forward. You have to stop worrying about who’s not here and start worrying about who is.― Alex Witchel, The Spare Wife

You accept that sadness and happiness are both external constructs. They are both driven by the things the world throws at us. And that’s alright. A tree must withstand terrible rain storms as well as the scorching heat of the sun before it can grow tall and be a succor to others who stop in its benign shade:

Sadness gives depth. Happiness gives height. Sadness gives roots. Happiness gives branches. Happiness is like a tree going into the sky, and sadness is like the roots going down into the womb of the earth. Both are needed, and the higher a tree goes, the deeper it goes, simultaneously. The bigger the tree, the bigger will be its roots. In fact, it is always in proportion. That’s its balance. ― Osho, Everyday Osho

After all, you do have a choice:

What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more’ … Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: ‘You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.― Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science: with a Prelude in Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs

What do you say?

Picture Mine
Picture Mine


A request to my readers:

Usually I’m fine with people reading and not commenting. But if you’ve taken the time to read this post, please say something before you go. Perhaps your words will strike a cord with the other readers and give them a moment of courage- and solace. I would love to add your words to this post as your contribution. Also, please share this. There are many amongst us who hide an aching heart behind a smile.

Thank you. God bless!

33 thoughts on “Have You Ever Been Sad?”

  1. Thank you 🙂 I have had to walk with sadness for much too long-like so many others. In fact, the person through whom I came to this link has much to be sad about. I had some luck compared to others as I had once someone in my life whose words helped many overcome many challenges. Basically, I want to be happy-all the time :D. As the years pass and as I realise no one wants to share another’s pain, I’ve learned to look on sadness when it visits with caution and compassion but I doubt anyone really gets the better of this lost little waif called sadness

    1. Welcome to my blog Gita 🙂
      Most of us have had to deal with the lost little waif. Some of us have had to deal with sorrows so deep you wonder how they survived it. But heavy or light, none of us are spared a skirmish or two with sadness.
      You said, no one wishes to share the pain of another. Somehow, I am not able to accept that. Everyone will surely not want to share your pain, but surely some do… at least for some time? But yes, there does come a time when you need to exorcize the pain or be swallowed by it. The exorcism is entirely a solo job. No one will help you do it because no one CAN. We all must deal with our own pain… in our own silences and our own loneliness. Only then does it speak to us.

      Thank you for your heartfelt comment. I also thank the your friend through whom you came to this page. 🙂

  2. I don’t think it’s just sadness but even other ‘negative’ feelings that society seems to think we shouldn’t feel. Anxiety, anger, shame, guilt, sadness…we try and cover them all. We think we need to be happy all the time. Which in turn, makes us feel sad or anxious because let’s face it…no one can be happy all the time! I have been sad. I have been to therapy because of my sadness and my anxiety. In the few years or so, I have learnt that it’s okay to be sad sometimes. And in fact, the more we accept that suffering is a part of life and that uncomfortable emotions such as sadness, anxiety, anger, shame etc are all a part of the gamut of emotions we experience, the more likely we are to get through it and experience other emotions such as love, joy, happiness or elation.

    When people tell others to stop crying or to not feel sad or to not worry, it’s actually very invalidating and dismissive. Rather than offering platitudes, it’s important to listen. To validate. To say it’s okay to feel the way you’re feeling.

    And yes, eventually, this too will pass…

    1. Your comment is so illuminating and warm that I have nothing to say in response but to thank God that you came here today. How beautifully and concisely you’ve said in a few words what I struggled to say.

      I think people should be taught- in school or at home- how to behave when someone is experiencing grief. It is so sad that people have no clue what to say or do in the face of another person’s grief. They end up lacerating further instead of helping to heal.

      Thank you for coming by 🙂

  3. very true, Dagny,It’s not always easy to give words to sadness or let others know that you are heart.Most of us design our actions and reaction according to socially accepted norms and the same applies while expressing our feelings,state of mind and emotions.If the reason for the sadness is pain of others or loss of life,we most of the time let others feel and know that we are sad but if the sadness is because we are hurt by some one close to us ,we normally try to hide it.Why so? May be we still don’t want others to voice and feel negative feelings for the person or we feel the other person can not feel the intensity of the grief or may be we have a fear that they might enjoy our pain.What ever might be the thoughts but the reason is that even at that point we give weight to the reactions of others.
    Why can’t we wear our emotions in a manner which suits us best ,makes us more comfortable.
    The Osho quote….I agree….sadness does give depth…when accepted,faced…it gives evolves into courage.
    good read. thanks for it ,Dagny.

    1. Namita, isn’t it so sad that even in the midst of our sorrow, we must keep a check on our expression? There is too much secrecy about sadness and grief. If I feel sad why should I be expected to pretend that I am perfectly all right? I have the right to grieve the thing that has given me pain. Only by living it can I get through with it. It is like fording a river. Unless you get into it… even if the water is deep and you must struggle to stay afloat, you can’t come out on the other side.

      It is so silly to pretend that there is no river at all. Or that you can cross it without getting wet!

      So happy to see you here. Thanks for coming by 🙂

      1. Pretending that you are okay is okay sometimes. It prevents you from being week and pessimistic. But everyone responds to grief and sadness differently, just that being trapped in sadness is real pain. One must try and see the world around, it helps branching out to happiness.

        1. Pretending you are okay… for a while, until you get your breath back… is okay. I’ve done that too at times. It helps you ‘space out’ from the grief. This in turn creates enough room within you to see the forest, and not stay focused on the trees.

          To see the world around is not easy but it can be done. Who knows that better than you do? Thank you immensely for adding your incomparable voice to this piece. You have enriched it, and me. <3

    1. Welcome to my blog!

      That was my point exactly Meeps. It is sad that there is all this hublaboo around sadness and grief.

      Thanks for coming by 🙂

  4. Amazed how you put so many words to one emotion! Most of the time we pretend to be happy…to hear that we have risen above our sadness and that we are strong. To hear that you are strong rather than vulnerable is more acceptable than to accept that you are sad. Most of the time people avoid sad people.

    1. Janu, as Alexander Lowen has said: We stop other people from crying because we cannot stand the sounds and movements of their bodies. It threatens our own rigidity. It induces similar feelings in ourselves which we dare not express and it evokes a resonance in our own bodies which we resist.

      We hate to see people being sad in our presence because somewhere we think- I was compelled to bottle up my sorrow where do you think YOU come from that you’ll be allowed to throw it in my face? I didn’t deal with my own sorrow, why the hell should I deal with yours?!

  5. I usually never display my emotions esp of being sad for various reasons the biggest one being the fear of the tag “pity”. I would hate that.

    I do wear it up my sleeve and do tell people things are not fine but I am and soon it will all be in place. And incase I need your help will definitely let you know.

    More often than not people rarely notice such things you see these days they are too busy to even notice if the colleague sitting on the seat next to them seems out of mood since last couple of days.

    I will share an example – our office boy had joined our office since last one week and then suddenly one day morning we came to know he committed suicide. He was quiet usually in the office and as we barely knew him it was difficult for us to comprehend whether it was his usual nature of something was amiss. But I am surprised that no one in his family saw this coming or understood that something was wrong. Strange are the ways. I had written about this on my fb. Off late we have become masters at camouflaging our emotions very well.

    1. Privy, the truth is, our pain is not for everyone to understand. There are people who wouldn’t care; there are some who would laugh at you behind your back; there are those who would be insensitive enough to scold you for being low and there are also people who would be happy that you are miserable. To all such people, I wouldn’t want to show my pain. My mask is all they would get to see.

      But there must be some people- one, two or more- to whom I can bare my soul. These people wouldn’t tag me as weak or piteous but would let me give voice to my grief so that I can heal. The saddest malady of our times is that many of us dont have that ONE person who has the heart and courage to listen to you crying without feeling overwhelmed by it.

      I heard the unsaid too Privy. Talk to me someday. You know where to find me.

      Thanks for your lovely comment. 🙂

  6. This post couldn’t have been more timely for me, Dagny and you’ve addressed such a sensitive topic so… well, sensitively. It’s difficult to talk openly to others about why you are down because most of the times people try to talk you out of it, if they do have the time to listen, that is. Or it is seen as an inability to cope, an inadequacy to manage your life, thoughts and emotions as a rational adult. And in return you are pitied or spoken to condescendingly, or others even enjoy a false sense of power from your plight.. none of which really helps. I agree and with what the other commentators have said too. And bottling is what most people end up doing, to keep face or seem strong, and then it gets unleashed in strange and sorry ways…….transformed into a host of other emotions and expressions….so wasted.

    1. I wish I had the words to tell you how deeply I appreciate your comment. Your words are veracious to a T. I agree with you completely. It is decimating to have people speak to you condescendingly. They make you feel as if you are being ill- mannered and uncouth for not sweeping your sadness away under the carpet… as they do. There is a distinct accusation of you doing something gross and unhealthy.

      I am so bewildered by such constructs. As you’ve so poignantly said- it is all so wasted.

      Thank you for adding your voice to this piece. You have enriched it beautifully. <3

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  8. Sad….yes! As often as I have been happy. But I don’t wish to share my sorrow with people anymore. I want it for myself, for it is my greatest personal wealth. I want to reserve it for my art. And it is this art that I wish to share.

    1. Vidya, only you could have said this. You are an amazing artist. Your art speaks volumes about the sorrow you use to fuel it.

      May you live life ever deeper my dear friend. May you enrich and empower by living your own ordinarily spectacular life. Hugs.

  9. Actually a question worth asking. And I lovedOsho’s analogy to the roots and to the branches. Loved reading this….and am still reflecting!

  10. I read this post last night but felt I must only comment when I have more time on hand. So, here I am back again. I see your post as being very positive to accept sadness as a normal part of life which it is. My answer to your question is that I feel sad everyday. The degrees vary. Sometimes it is very minor. Sometimes, it is a tiff or some incident that makes me sad for a few days. And sometimes, it could be a loss whose pain may blunt with time but will still simmer under the surface for years on end. But, personally, I mull, seek answers and am raring to go. I grieve if I need to but I will move on. And, yes, I do reach out and cry if need be, talk to a few people I trust and bare my heart. Sometimes, I just want them to hear me. At other times, I’d like to know how should I handle the situation, and then see for myself if there is something I can gain from it. But to the world at large, I do not wash my dirty linen only with the souls I connect. But I am not one to push pain under the carpet. If I am tired, feeling low, unwell, sad and hurt, those around me will know and see it. It does not make me any less strong, it just makes me human! Thank you for writing this post. It encourages us to not treat sadness as a pariah but to embrace it, accept it and figure out ways to move on even stronger!

    1. What a lovely comment Rachna! You have surpassed your usual standards!

      You feel sad everyday. How simply and openly you’ve said it… as it should be said. I don’t think there are many people who aren’t sad everyday. But not many are able to say it. All because we’ve built up such a hublaboo around the thing. Like it is something extraordinary.

      I am very different from you. I don’t show my feelings. My kids can make out, specially my younger daughter. But if ever she can’t make out that I am upset, I don’t tell them. Somehow I’ve found that most disappointments and sadnesses lose their sting by next morning. More often than not, I manage to find a way out of the situation or else it gets absorbed within the many inner edifices one has.

      Your comment has reminded me of the thing you said about validation. Thank you for being you! 🙂

  11. The ‘shame’ that sadness makes us feel perhaps stems from an alternative state of mind which sees it as a ‘weakness’ to be sad, as proof that we are not fully in control of our lives and emotions. Sadly, sadness is so much a part of all our individual and collective lives that if is not there at all, we would not know what it is to be happy.
    Blake said – Without contraries there is no progress. 🙂
    This post, and the Alex Witchel quote will stay with me for a while.

    1. Don’t we have so very many ways to trip ourselves up? How many way we can manufacture to convince ourselves of our own lack of worthiness! Critical of self and of others, we seem to take pleasure in pulling out the knives and chopping everyone down to size. There is surely something screwed within us.

      The Alex Witchel quote was the pivotal quote in the piece. I totally loved it too.

      Thank you. Your comment warmed the farthest corners of my heart! <3

  12. Powerfully written Dagny. I possess not enough words in my dictionary to explain how I feel. It was just brilliantly written. As for the sadness part, I agree – The more happy you feel, the more sadness you’ve been through I suppose. The balance exists, just like in everything else in nature. I do feel sad, again in varying amounts. But I’m not one to show my feelings. Well, most of the time anyway. My wife knows though. But yes, I suppose the sadness, just like the happiness never lasts!

    1. Thank you Sid. The best part of this post is that I didn’t write it. I have just compiled the wise words of others and got ready to collect the accolades.

      Most of us aren’t too good at showing our pain. It is easier to shut it all away than to show it.

      So glad you could connect to it. Thanks for coming by… 🙂

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  14. I guess we all feel a certain amount of sadness , quiet often and yet we do not want to show it. I know I am not very good or adept at showing how I feel and neither am I good at calling out for help. Very well written post.

    1. You aren’t alone Shefali. It is difficult for me too to show my pain. I think somewhere along the line we have been taught that to show pain is shameful in some way, that one must never appear vulnerable. My dad always got very annoyed if I would cry with pain. I have never cried in front of either of my parents… not even when I got married. I guess our childhood conditioning stays with us always.
      I am very happy to see you here. Thanks for reading my favorite piece. 🙂

    1. It is indeed. As long as you don’t think your sadness is Permanent, Pervasive or your Personal fault… you’d be okay.

      Sorry for the relayed response to the comment. I don’t know how I missed it.

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