I wasn’t a particularly sensitive child. Whenever I was in trouble or something sad happened, I would zone out. I would imagine I was in a play and nothing that was happening was real or that I was a spy and everything before me was an elaborate ruse. It wasn’t until I moved in Grade 7, and I hit puberty and I discovered Nirvana that I really remember feeling things so deeply and getting overcome with empathy and sadness.
When I was about 13, we had an ant problem in our basement. They crawled through the heater vents and from the windows and basically every corner of the room was their colony. So my dad bought some ant poison, as you do in these situations. However, this particular poison caused the ants to loose control of their limbs and die very, very slowly. I remember lying on the floor watching TV and seeing the ants staggering around me. Usually they moved too fast for me to even notice them. But this day, they were slow, haphazard and sporadic. I forgot all about my show and gave the colony my full attention. I wasn’t sure what was happening. But I could sense panic in the movement of their tiny bodies. Their little legs stopped moving one by one but ever resilient, the ants continued on, dragging their dead legs behind them like fallen soldiers. Even when all their legs gave out, they would still move a bit due to sheer fortitude. There was probably about 20 ants on the carpet, but to me it seemed like a scene from the Battle of Somme or something. I had been watching the scene for about 10 minutes when I noticed water canons began to drop adding another obstacle to the ants’ plight. It took me a minute to realize that the water canons were my own tears. I saw my reflection in the TV set and could see tears flowing freely down my face. I hated all creepy crawly things especially in my own house but I never expected them to die like this.
When my dad came home two hours later, I was still crying over the scene I saw. I’m sure he thought I was crazy but to his credit he didn’t make fun of me. He made me some french fries and got rid of the ant poison. But I never forgot that scene and what it stirred inside of me: guilt for the ant poison; anguish for the pain of the ants; shame for watching them suffer and being able to do nothing; grief for the other ants left behind. It’s all so OMG teenage melodrama looking back on it now; but even just remembering this incident from over 20 years ago, I can’t help but relive all those intense feelings all over again.
A lot of people think I like being sad. That is not true. I like feel alive (most of the time). I like to connect with people I know and people I don’t know. Happiness is easy to fake. A smile, a nod, a bit of idle chit chat and some forced laughter. It’s not brain surgery. We do it everyday. But sadness is a bit harder to fake. You feel it before you show it. Happiness forces you outward- embrace the sunshine; salute the day; count your blessings. Sadness explores your insides – it lurks in your veins and seeps through your blood, following you like a shadow. You can never predict when it will surface.
Sadness is a Blessing by Lykke Li, from the 2011 CD, “Wounded Rhymes” is a song that everyone I know says reminds them of me. I get it. I get sad easily. I cry often. Some people see this as a curse, but to me it’s a blessing.
Sadness is a blessing
Sadness is a pearl
Sadness is my boyfriend
Oh, sadness I’m your girl
People often don’t take the time to connect with their emotions. They want to get over it. They want to move on. But just as much as you relish your happy moments you have to acknowledge your sad moments. It’s the ying and yang of life. It’s why so many hilarious comedians also battle depression. Highs have lows. Peaks have valleys.
These scars of mine make wounded rhymes tonight
I dream of times when you were mine so I
Can keep it like a haunting
Heart beating close to mine
In the video for Sadness is a Blessing, which co-stars the cooler than cool Stellan Skarsgard, Lykke Li is face to face with sadness. She antagonizes it. She mocks it. She does everything she can to rebel against it. But in the end she embraces it. It’s a deep, metaphor-rich video that still gives me chills every time I watch it.
I ranted, I pleaded, I beg him not to go
For sorrow, the only lover I’ve ever known
Every night I rant, I plead, I beg him not to go
Will sorrow be the only lover I can call my own?
That’s the darkness behind the shadow of sadness. What if your sadness never fades? Depression is a real, scary disease that affects millions of people in millions of different ways. But I think sadness is something different. It rises and sets like the sun. Some days with sadness are longer than others. Some days feel like weeks and some like fleeting memories. But it’s always with you, a constant companion, ready to help you navigate your world through connections and reactions and emotions.
Sadness is my boyfriend
Oh, sadness I’m your girl