A while back, a mentor gently chided me: ‘you really love what’s sad, Megan.’
I agreed and we laughed and laughed. And then I wandered off and wondered, sort of sadly: I do really love what’s sad. Why?
It came down to this: in my life, what’s sad has always been accompanied—before or after—by the greatest knowings. Sadness—allowed and deeply felt—ushers in those little or big understandings about the nature of life: that all experiences come and go; that what I hold now will eventually be put down; that today’s joy is meant for today; that a hope for joy tomorrow is, ultimately, meaningless and moderately desperate. Joy happens now; tomorrow never happens ever; the degree of my suffering and delight at every moment depends on the degree to which I regulate both.
Hard-won knowings, these bits. And not always speedy or even timely. Some take a long time to settle themselves. Some settle and settle again. The loss of my tiny, 8-week old puppy? That was an intense sadness. But fast. A lesson in mutual comfort and connection that offered itself as quickly as the puppy lived her fleeting life. The loss of my 13-year old dog? A heartbreaking sob-fest that guided me to see my loyalty and commitment had risen to the levels she taught me.
Then there are those churners. The great miseries of ’95, when an already shaky trust in authority, love and family crumbled? That resolved in ’03, with a law degree and a realization that authority is always silly, love is truth and family is whomever I chose. The devastation of my dad’s suicide in ’92? Partial reconciliation occurred over years. It was ’98, with the help of a lover. Then in ’02, thanks to a professor. Again in ’05, with a therapist. Another therapist in ’12 and a dear friend in ’14.
To complete the grief in me, I had to complete the relationships I’d lost. And that meant I had to see myself as someone capable of doing it. With guidance, but ultimately alone. Because people were lost… to time and death. And those who weren’t lost weren’t responsible. It was only me who could do this work. And seeing myself that way meant that I recognized my agency in life. No one would transform sadness for me. Not great friends or teachers, not pills or strong margaritas. It was for me, with whatever wisdom I could muster. These were my tragedies to experience. These were my treasures to unearth.
So life goes on. We strive, acquire and lose. In this cycle, we’re trained to acquire but we don’t learn how to lose. Even though it’s integral and essential to our evolution. To every moment passing.
I think of this stuff, sometimes, like perennial fruits. Memories sprout, grow, bloom, fruit. Then they die back to the roots giving the ground a little more to work off. This is how we thrive.
But we forget to appreciate our crops. Shit, we barely acknowledge the garden they grow in. The gift of our whole life. Most importantly, we tend to overlook our responsibility as gardeners. If we don’t tend to ourselves, we grow out of control, out of balance, out of reach among the weeds.
And this is why I love the sad stuff. Because it IS the shit. Not the weeds, but the shit. It’s this from which our lives expand, bear fruit, offer respite from the weeds—the noise and chaos of the world around us.
Our resilience strengthens us; it offers us solace in faith and understanding. We find warmth and comfort, compassion and forgiveness with every bit of sadness we transform. We discover gratitude and joy as we experience our ability to influence change.
If you’re curious about techniques to help you reconcile loss, please consider joining me at Foundation Yoga for a three-part yoga therapy series on grief. Grief manifests as an uprooting and separation from your innate sense of home. A mindful, gentle practice will offer guideposts to show you the way back. As you navigate your path, you’ll rediscover and strengthen your capacity to feel and share forgiveness, peace, and courage. With practice, you’ll learn that you can always find your way home, from sadness to joy.
November 2, 9, 16 at from noon to 1:15pm. Cost is $50 for all three sessions or whatever your heart allows. Class size is limited so please RSVP by October 28.