I am writing and watching TV at the same time, and one character used the term, surviving sadness. At the risk of overstating my accomplishment, I believe I’m qualified to comment.
Sadness is all-encompassing. Or so it was for me. No matter what happened, I couldn’t avoid being sad. I lived a life of mistakes, victories, achievements, failures; I was not always miserable. There were months on end when I enjoyed my life, but I wasn’t facing my diabetes, which lay at the root of my sadness. I never did come to terms with the limits of diabetes — less food, more exercise, medication management, partnerships with doctors — all of these eluded me. Some of them are still difficult for me, but at least I’m trying.
I spent many a hedonistic year in my life, seeking pleasure in some bad directions. Sex was one — I acted promiscuously in college, with little thought or care for any risk or danger. I am not proud of this behavior; it wasn’t particularly pleasant, either. I was screaming inside to be loved by someone, and even though I found plenty of partners for sex, they never dented that wall of sadness inside. I never found someone to love me, for real.
Drink and drugs were the other vehicles on my journey through sadness and hedonism. I drank to excess in college, and after college I developed the habit of smoking dope, frequently. I hoped I changed myself when I imbibed — I believed I was more attractive, sexier, more worldly when I drank. And I didn’t give a crap who I was when I was stoned — a self-anaesthesia, and quite a good one, too. Long after I cut back to drinking three or four times a year, I continued to smoke weed.
I knew, deep down, that none of this made me any happier. Or any healthier, either. And if I appealed to anyone at all, I attracted all the wrong kinds of men. When I hung out in bars, had sex with anyone who seems interested, and didn’t care about myself at all, I called the drunks, the unfaithful husbands, the lowlifes, and that sick form of an artsy man — very talented, but concealing characteristics with which I would never choose to live. Who would wonder that I remained sad, didn’t care about my health, and couldn’t make any long-term commitments? I don’t wonder at all — I know that because I didn’t love myself, I could never be happy.
I was talking, a few weeks back, about my sadness. I tried to explain how that sadness was always there, even when I succeeded at the tasks I undertook. I hope, if you are reading this, that you begin to understand, if not why, at least that I was unhappy.
Now, the mirror reflection is true. I love myself. I am content with my life, and content with being contented, if that makes any sense. Am I always bubbly, happy, successful? Of course not. That kind of perfectionism fell away when I chose to forgive my past, and shed the setup for pain perfectionism offers.
I was slightly shaken up, the first time I felt unhappy, after this big change — I needed to learn the lesson that happy people are not continually rejoicing. This same lesson in reverse was missing through most of my life: I was sad, and couldn’t honestly feel happy about anything. Perhaps if I’d seen that middle ground earlier in my life, I could avoid a lot of pain. And if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
Fortunately, I know now what is true, that I will never be perfectly happy, but I am content with the ups and downs of my moods, celebrating happiness and surviving sadness.