Sunday, October 16, 2016

I Feel Sad

"I feel sad," announced my internal monologue. Out of the blue. While I was making a salad.

I have no idea where these thoughts come from or why during the day while doing the most mundane things, they pop up in my head. I mean, yes, eating a salad is not my first choice. I would definitely be "happier" with a big bowl of pasta or even pieces of cold pizza. But for my brain to verbalize this in a sentence always catches me off guard.

My first instinct is to start looking around and analyzing my circumstances. "I'm sad? Ok, thanks brain, I didn't realize that, so what's making me sad?" Then it's very easy for my to start identifying all the "problems" around me and to justify that thought with, "Yep, I AM sad. I SHOULD be sad." The longer I search and dwell on all those things that should be making me sad, the sadder I get.

I don't think these thoughts have anything to do with me having clinical depression or at least I'm going to deny they do. They come and go. Of course troubling circumstances bring on and intensify sad emotions, and I have experienced depression and grief, but sometimes I don't feel the sad emotion until the words just pop up like a cartoon thought bubble over my head while I'm making a salad. Maybe it's just the shadow of grief that C.S. Lewis describes in A Grief Observed: "Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery's shadow or reflection: the fact that you don't merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief.”

It's interesting the way that it starts as a thought which in turn, if I entertain that thought, becomes the emotion. And once the sadness has settled in, I am learning I can decide what to do about it. If I can notice and be aware of it (which seems to take practice), if I can stay present which has the affect of shutting off the thought cycle in my mind, then usually I can just watch and experience it until it goes away. I may still cry. I may still have tears. My eyes will burn, and my nose will turn red. It's not about resisting the emotion once it begins, it's about being aware enough that I can identify it, say "I see you", and then wait. And whenever I have tried to do this, the sadness usually fades away. I like that its something concrete I can try to do.

But then again, sometimes I don't want it to go away. I want to wallow. I want to feel the misery. I want a reason to eat the ice cream. I want to let my thoughts run away and indulge my mind in all that's wrong with the world and feel the weight. I want the cleanse. And that's ok too. The point is I can choose. And I am aware that I can choose. The hard part sometimes is just remembering that I can choose.

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