I have come to accept my sadness as holy. I don’t mean to fetishize depression. I don’t even think the great grief I experience is depression–it’s situationally appropriate and does not rise up to wall me from my day, duties, you.
But I think of my sadness—this heavy, grave stillness—as holy because it is true and because, after all these years, I am grateful to feel even when it is very, very hard.
As a young empath my daily prayer was to not stop feeling. I worried that I’d grow as numb as most adults, that I’d stop registering the sorrows and struggles and triumphs of bugs, birds, plants, people–of every soul quietly hurtling on its forcefulm fateful path. I felt everything so deeply that it made me cry in fast food restaurants and plastic playgrounds paved over meadows, at birthday parties where the parents didn’t seem happy their kids had been born. Oh, Lisa, she’s so sensitive. That’s what they always say, isn’t it, when we can’t block out the miracles and savagery of everyday life.
Now, on a bad day, it enrages me when people privilege their feelings as if no one else has them. I still have big feelings, thank G-d, but have learned to live with them as I might a friend or child who needs care-taking, not indulging. This is what being an indigo grownup means. And during this eclipse season, I have been learning to channel this sadness (joy too) into my work rather than allowing it to isolate me.
Today I was writing in the Magic Chair. It was morning, when my brain battery runs best and when I usually do not run into night-owl Mr. Everybody who does not love me as I only now am learning to not love him.
I was sitting pretty in 1966 Massachusetts with earbuds feeding me Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks, a weird choice as my characters hated it, when I heard someone holler Rosperson. The name was an echo from my past, so it took a while for it to register. When it did, I saw Mr. E’s ten-speed halfway down the street, the ugly shirt I’d once found endearing already a blur. There went a man to whom I’d offered my heart almost exactly twelve months ago and who’d cried when I’d done so. A gentle rejection, I’d thought, but his self-indulgence, really. We’d held each other’s hand through a very hard year for both of us, and then he’d not waited for me to look up. Why? Because I’d burdened him with my love?
Rosperson is the name men use when they wish to emphasize their lack of sexual interest in me. This goes all the way to high school, when Seth Mnookin would holler it from his father’s Mercedes as I’d trudge out of my ice cream-scooping job in a Pepto-Bismol uniform.
I hate it for this reason.
I sat there, heart pounding and all those other symptoms that have earned their status as cliches because they’re real. Here were the facts my cramping stomach would not let me rearrange away:
a. he had not stopped
b. he had flaunted not stopping
c. he had called me the worst kind of desexualizing nickname. I’d even told him I considered it a desexualizing nickname.
Gut instincts are no joke.
I already knew the girl I’d been was gone, the siren who would tip suitors into her bed just by raising her eyebrows and flashing some thigh. I’d viewed this departure as better and worse, like everything everything everything. Now it felt only worse. Street trash, easy to drive by.
I breathed and breathed again. Could I write anymore? Was I toast?
Reader, I gave my sadness to this book I’m writing and kept going. I called Beztie, who did me the kindness of letting me cry before identifying the bad behavior as his, not mine. Then I wrote 1,000 more words before calling it a day because I wasn’t going to let him ruin my writing session. The man had roused me from my creative trance just to showboat his disregard, then blithely pedaled away. It was casual cruelty, an adolesecent preening unbecoming in a middle-aged man, and my inner teen had been triggered in turn. My sadness was authentic and thus holy and the only thing that was new was I had given it a vessel to fill. The scene I was writing even needed that brutally unquenched longing. Method writing.
Who knows if this book will be any good but it is mine and already it has changed me. And the feelings—well, I’m glad Mr. E is the latest cad who will not break me. Even when my love is rebuffed, even when our president is the worst as he is every day, we can break our hearts open, not sear them closed. We need to be wide as the sky to survive this blood on the tracks.
Art credits (from top to bottom): Vincent Van Gogh, Louise Fitzhugh and me, VVG.