In a world filled with wilful ignorance, unfettered greed and social injustice, it is difficult to believe that anyone could be immune from sadness. Yet, we are made to think that if we are sad, it is something to cure. Whether that be through mindless consumerism or instant gratification. We stigmatise sadness.
Sadness, for me is not the absence of happiness. In fact, I find that they co-exist. Perpetual sadness is the feeling of wanting to change so much that is wrong with the world and knowing that you may never be able to achieve this. This doesn’t mean that you are perpetually unhappy. The opposite of happiness is not sadness. It just means that you are living in a world rife with injustice and you are more than painfully aware of it.
“It was not the feeling of completeness that I needed, but the feeling of not being empty” – Foer
Interestingly, in my most saddest moments I have learnt the most about my self. About my own strength. About my own depth. There is definitely a kind of homeliness to it. I seem to write best when I’m angry. Some of my best essays have come from places of great sadness.
“I hated being depressed, but it was also in depression that I learned my own acreage, the full extent of my soul. When I am happy, I feel slightly distracted by happiness, as though it fails to use some part of my mind and brain that wants the exercise. My grasp tightens and becomes acute” Andrew Soloman
From childhood we’re encouraged to think that happiness is something to be obtained. Whether we get close to it is contingent on how hard we work toward goals that we set for ourselves. I’m sick of hearing reductionist, psuedo-wisdoms that portray happiness as a tangible element. For me happiness is not about gaining anything. And it is has never been about banishing sadness. That is too simple.
“Most people think happiness is about gaining something, but it’s not. It’s all about getting rid of the darkness you accumulate.” Carolyn Crane
You need sadness. Sometimes you need to die a little inside in order to rise from your own ashes. It can be a reminder, a re-inforcement of something you forgot, since happiness is a distraction. I don’t believe in being happy all of the time. That is unnatural. Sadness is important. It can be artistic, poetic. It can drive you.
Ultimately, i’ve learnt to use sadness as a tool. I accept the things I cannot change and this makes me perpetually sad. But, I also immerse myself in the things that I can change and this brings me boundless joy. Humans are complex creatures. We shouldn’t have to dichotomise ourselves into “happy” and “sad” categories. I think that accepting your sadness as a part of yourself is a way of becoming a happier person. It shouldn’t have to be either/or.
I’ll end with a paradox: You can be happy in your own sadness.