Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Gift of Sadness

I am usually a pretty even-keeled person, emotionally speaking. Not that I always feel positive, but my emotional pendulum simply doesn't often swing too far toward either extreme. I find intense feelings of any kind to be uncomfortable, so I do my best to keep myself in some sort of intermediate equilibrium. This often works...until, it doesn't. Sometimes, despite my best efforts, my mood plummets fast and furious.

Last week was one of those weeks. I felt disconnected and lonely, painfully aware of my relative lack of close local friends, and missing the intimate friendships that I've always craved but have seldom experienced. When I feel it intensely, loneliness grips my heart like a vise and sends me tumbling into emotional bleakness. Last week was no exception--low energy, depressed mood, and a short fuse made getting through each day feel like a tremendous feat. As I struggled to pull myself out of this slump, I found myself wondering what the "Jewish approach" to sadness is. As I read one article, a section of text jumped out at me:

"Judaism is not about being happy; it's about being whole. Wholeness, however, is actually the only true path to real happiness because then you experience an inner happiness even when you are sad. You take pleasure in your ability to feel pain. You embrace and celebrate the totality of your humanness. To be whole we must be willing to immerse ourselves in the complete drama of being alive and human."

How fabulous a philosophy is that?! I so often forget, when I am in the thick of negative emotions, how miraculous it is that I experience any emotions at all. For so many years, my feelings were locked away somewhere unaccessible--anger and elation, joy and sadness, all were numbed by my eating disorder. Although this was easier in many ways, it was also so dull...and empty. After all, the positive and negative emotions are flip sides of the same coin--we can't have happiness without also experiencing sadness at times. The difficult moments are what help us to realize what treasures the joyful times are. If I never felt disconnected from my friends, would I be able to fully appreciate the warmth I enjoy from our relationships? Probably not. In order to experience the joy, I have to be willing to open myself to the pain. No one gets to enjoy the former without the latter--that's not how the human experience works.

For so long, I was so intent on never being hurt that I also prevented myself from ever being happy. Now, I realize what a blessing it is that I am able to feel the full spectrum of human emotions...and, not only can I feel them, but I can also survive them. The next time I am in one of those dark emotional places (because there will surely be a next time!), I will try to remember that although sadness is in many ways unpleasant, it is also a gift, and a testament to the fact that I have the ability to feel. Hopefully we can all carry this perspective with us as we encounter the emotional ups and downs of recovered life.


  1. "Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn - whatever state I may be in, therein to be content." ~Helen Keller

    (A necessity for weeks like this one. xo)

  2. I also read that other article. As far as being Jewish and sadness, I am Jewish and had a great childhood. Every summer we moved into a fancy hotel on the Atlantic City Beach. We would be on the beach all morning and at the hotel pool overlooking the beach in the afternoon.

    The youngest billionaire ever is Jewish. Do you know who that is? He was in a Jewish fratenity at Harvard and became a college drop out just like Bill Gates, Mark zuckerberg. (my preview is not showing capital z, I will type it again here-- ZZZZ). He was Time Magazine person of the year in 2010. He created Facebook.

    That is a great quote above in bold. I think that to finish this whole comment I will need to create a blog post. My name takes you to my Google blog profile with 4 blogs on it. I will put it under the blog called Ancient Inspiration. So you can go there to read the rest if you want.

    That quote above refers to real happiness. So what is real and fake happiness. An example of fake happiness is something that happens in your life that causes it. For example what is the ultimate cause of all death? I could just say the ultimate cause of death or the cause of all death. Also is this ultimate cause good or bad?

    You mentioned 2 sides of the same coin. If one side of the coin is death, what is on the other side? The ultimate cause of all death is birth. Being born is a death sentence. Real happiness comes from the soul which is beyond birth and death.

  3. The capital z does not work. That is odd. Here are the last 6 letters of the alphabet-- u,v,w,x,y,z. Here they are in capital letters U,V,W,X,Y,Z. Notice it has ,. Between the comma and period is the capital z but it becomes invisible in the preview.