The gift of sadness


I woke today feeling sad. Usually, I can rid myself of my cares with a good long walk. Send me out onto a dirt road with a sack of sorrow for four or five hours, throw in a few hill climbs, some bracing winds from the south, and a goodly dose of solitude, and I’ll return red-cheeked and grinning, the sack empty of all save a few crumbs of woe – the ones that humanise and soften, writes Ailsa Piper in The Good Oil.

Since Easter, I’ve walked miles under skies of all hues, and I’ve swum in Port Philip Bay on a day designed to dazzle. I have talked with those I trust, worked with words I love and listened to music that usually heals. I’ve given myself a solid talking-to and I’ve counted my blessings – that took longer than all the other activities put together.

Yet still I feel sad. There’s no reason for this sorrow. Yes, on Good Friday I was reminded, as always, of death and suffering. In Melbourne it was a grey, mournful day, and I decided my melancholy was brought on by a convergence of scripture and weather, and it would pass on Easter Sunday in the uplift of resurrection and chocolate eggs.

It didn’t. Instead, I noted the fall of leaves, the fade of light, and the chill of evening. I focused on media coverage of murders and bombings, and fixated on the abuse of children, feeling my stomach turn, yet unable to avert my eyes.

I don’t enjoy melancholy, and I’ve no taste for gloom. When sadness does creep up on me, I feel ashamed. How dare I be sad when I get to do something I love, when my body is healthy and I live in a wealthy democracy? Mine is a blessed and sunny existence, and my persona is predicated on optimism. I was once described as “relentlessly happy”. I’m blonde, for heavens sake! I have no right to feel this way.

And yet, something is shifting. I weep at inexplicable moments – seeing the silhouette of a dog sprinting along a ridge against the blaze of sunrise; watching a dreadlocked mother kiss her daughter’s nose as they sit unmoving on a park swing; noticing how the cry of a gull and the trail of a jet-stream unite overhead; hearing my father’s familiar two-note “hel-lo” down the phone.

What is the point of all these tears, I ask myself. There must be a reason, or else they’re grotesque. Something useful must emerge, or this sadness is simply indulgence.

FULL STORY The gift of sadness (The Good Oil)

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