I’m what one might call the Happy-Go-Lucky type. On the majority of my days, I wake up happy and I go to bed happy. Mostly because I lack any real reason not to be happy. A bad day at work still means I have a job. An argument with a friend still means I have a friend I can argue with. A mother driving me crazy still means that at least I have a mother. I am fortunate. So when I do get sad, which happens much to my dismay, I am not happy about that. I went through a phase as a teenager when I tried to forbid myself to be sad. I forced myself to put everything in perspective. “In other places, people are starving right now”, I’d tell myself. Bad math test? At least I’m not starving. Broken heart? At least I’m not starving. Lonely? At least I’m not starving.
It didn’t work.
I tried so hard but when things suck, they suck. The entire rest of the world could have it worse but that will never change the fact that sometimes things will make me upset. If all it took for me to put things in perspective, I would probably never be sad again. But that didn’t work. So what does?
Life is very short and there’s no time for fussing and fighting or: The Beatles Approach
When my sister was 12 years old, her classmate died. His dad had fallen asleep while he was driving. He and his daughter survived. His son didn’t. Neither did his marriage. My friend was 25 when they found the brain tumour in his head. He died a year later. A friend’s mother had a brain aneurysm at the age of 40 and just dropped dead one day. No warning. Ron, my mother’s godchild, died at the age of 16 in a motorcycle crash. A girl who used to play in my brass band died on the school skiing trip when she was 18.
I could continue this list. But I won’t. Not a cheery list. But you get my point. Life is short indeed. It’s more than a phrase to me. I have seen it, again and again. Life can change and end in the blink of an eye. It’s terrifying.
And I truly do try to remember this when things make me sad. I don’t think that being sad is a waste of time, I think it is part of this beautiful, confusing, incredible life. However, there is only so much room I want to give sadness in my life. Because when all is said and done, I want to look back at a life lived happily.
“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.” ~ Mary Oliver
45 Life Lessons
When my friend sent me the link to these life lessons a couple of years ago, my natural instinct was to roll my eyes. Those wannabe inspirational things are not my cup of tea. These lessons, however, did change my life. Not all of them stuck, I don’t even agree with all of them. But the one that I, to this day, still think of when something is threatening to make me sad is this one:
Frame every so-called disaster with these words: “In five years, will this matter?”
You would not believe the healing power of that question. Because a lot of it won’t. Really just won’t and does not matter in the big scheme of things. Sometimes, that thought is all it takes for me to take a deep breath and pull myself back together.
Last but not least: Music
Music is part of my entire emotional life, not just the sad parts. But when I do get sad, boy! does music ever do the trick for me.
If I am still at the stage of sadness that can be turned around, then try to stay sad when you hear those first chords of “Here comes the sun”. When I went through some big guy drama a few years back, I swear, “The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World saved my life. I cha cha the sadness away in my living room to “Sway”, I will rock the blues away, playing “Run” by Amy McDonald on my guitar or I just lie on my bed and let “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” performed by Sarah Bareilles wash over me until I feel better.
But then there is the point of no return…
Sometimes, it is too late, it can’t be turned around, you just have to be sad. Then I do what Morrie in Tuesdays with Morrie recommends and wash myself in the emotion. Coldplay is always good accompaniment for a decent cry fest or the odd Sarah McLachlan tune, although I can only handle her in small dosages. The ultimate music though, if you really just want to let yourself be depressed for a little while, is probably anything Damien Rice has ever sung.
But handle with caution, that stuff can drag you down on even the best of days! His music is so heartbreakingly beautiful, just grab that tissue box, a lot of cookies and hide under the blankets until the morning comes. You will feel so deeply sad that you can only possibly feel better after!
And now keep smiling 🙂