Last sunday I was immensely enjoying the sunday papers* (one of those simple and rare joys of life, where the ratio of cost versus pleasure is deliciously disproportionate). I was minding my own business hopping from one entertaining article to another when I suddenly hit upon one in The New Review by Nina Lakhani which stopped me in my tracks and brought me back to earth rather than with a bump, with a blood curdling scream. The article was so brave, raw and incredible that it tinted my mood for the whole day (mass understatement of both emotive state and duration). I couldn't shake it off.
What bothered me almost as much as the article itself was how sad it made me feel. I dragged around this painful shroud trying to forcibly rid myself of it which only rendered it more weighty. Like wet wool.
Then I thought "hold on a minute - my sadness at my sadness is bringing me more trouble the original state of sadness itself - this can't be right!". And I came to a standstill.
So, I decided to employ one of Buddha's famous maxims which smacks of Regan's 1980s anti-drug campaign but both precedes him by a long way and proves to be actually effective. The maxim being "do something different" to get one out of a mental mind trap (rather than heroin addiction - which was maybe pushing it a bit too far).
Usually my "doing something different" consists of going out alone preferably somewhere greenish and relatively silent. At the moment I am in the mountains so leaving the family fast asleep I ventured into the fresh morning air to tackle a cross country ski track winding its way through a wood posing as a Brazilian rainforest, and next to a river. But clad in shorts rather than skis (seeing as summer is incompatible with the latter).
Striding forth deep it thought, bare thighs tearing through the invisible early morning cob threads strewn across my path, legs smarting with the cold I suddenly realized my mistake. I'd forgotten that positive thinking and sadness are not mutually exclusive. Positive thinking does not render upset illegal. For to feel the latter is (or should be) a HEATHY and APPROPRIATE reaction to certain negative to shocking input (be it actions,deed, articles, news, traumas etc) or material. To feel sad is to be human and healthy. (Where as to feel depressed is a to have a disproportional and destructive reaction to an event which warrants neither.)
The problem is not sadness itself but two other factors;
1) if it's out of proportion (as I once read somewhere - "I knew my feelings for him had died when one morning his reaction to losing a sock was comparable to that of being told he had cancer".)
2) if it overshadows and influences everything else negatively for a disproportionate length of time. Think of deep southern Italian widows permanently mourning, dressed in black and victimhood, sexless and alone until death.
So instead of chastising myself for my unexpected downturn in mood, instead of trying to mentally trick myself out of this healthy reaction in order to mistakenly find respite, I decided to let it in. I allowed the mood to seep through me (like a water drenched sponge), I watched it develop and almost swallow me up whole, but to my suprise it didn't. It started to subside and drain away. Leaving me alone and mentally refreshed with my rainforest pathway and cobwebs.
Walking on the way back is always far more pleasurable as the sun at that stage in the morning has started to peep over the mountain drenching me in its light and warmth and this alone seems to cleanse the mind. Anyway the point being - It's ok to be sad .
That's it folks.
So for your homework this week if and when you find yourself feeling blue ask yourself: why? Once the root cause is uncovered try to figure out if this sadness is indeed warranted, then allow it to co-exist as is simply is. Try to avoid pushing it away or feeding it. Feel, observe and wait.
I wanted to formally thank Nina Lakhani for her bravery in writing this article and to The Independent for publishing it on a Sunday, when more people will surely come into contact with it. It's hard but everybody should read it.
And good luck to Rebecca Moran may all your wounds heal - god knows you deserve it. To read the article go to the Independent website; www.independent.co.uk and look under the section "People". I tried to include the link but it doesn't seem to work.
*Forgive me Italians, I'm afraid I'm talking about English Newspapers which on a Sunday are huge gems of entertainment, knowledge and information - the same cannot be said for the ones found here - please do not take offense. I find Italian papers are all politics, reported speech and boredom. Although the only thing I cannot do without (and I acknowledge it's a completely different kettle of fish) is Vivimilano of Corriere della Sera. And not only because I have been mentioned within its pages!