Sadness is but a wall between two gardens. — Khalil Gibran
“I’m so sad,” the little girl said to me.
We’d been having a marvelous day, riding our bikes, feeding the ducks by the edge of a pond, and delighting in the everyday pleasures that children find so easily and adults usually take for granted.
The casual way in which she spoke those words shook me to the core, forcing me to consciously remember to exhale.
I’ve known her all my life, and from day one she’s been a happy-go-lucky little creature who has taught me that life is meant to be lived and laughed.
Her sudden shift from joy to sadness further compounded the importance of her statement, stopping me in my tracks, not knowing what to do to make her feel well … unsad.
If she’d been a grownup, I’d have invited her out for a drink. After all, that’s what grownups do when we want to quickly feel good about ourselves.
But that’s just a bandaid for what’s really at the root of our discomfort.
Happy hour does nothing to ease the other 23 hours of discontent. It just postpones the inevitable soul searching that leads to the core of what’s really making us miserable. But we just don’t have time for that, do we?
All that aside, asking a 7-year-old out for a drink was clearly not the solution in this case.
“What are you sad about?” I asked.
“I don’t really know,” she replied.
Ah, the wisdom of little children. Admitting that you don’t know is the first step in opening yourself up to the answers you seek.
The walls we build around us to keep sadness out also keeps out the joy. — Jim Rohn
I struggled for something to say.
“Sometimes doing something silly and spontaneous helps me to stop being sad,” I said. It was the best I could come up with at such short notice.
She thought about it for a second, a smile toying with the corners of her mouth.
“You mean like having hot dogs for breakfast?” she asked with a slight giggle.
“Something like that,” I said.
The prospect of having hot dogs for breakfast seemed to distract her enough to help her forget that she was sad. Or maybe just saying she was sad out loud was what she needed to dissipate the feeling and whatever power it threatened to exert over her.
But it got me to thinking — because that’s what grownups do … we think. Sometimes too much.
Why, as adults, do we hide our sadness? Why do we see it as a sign of weakness? Too taboo to even bring up.
Every human walks around with a certain kind of sadness. They may not wear it on their sleeves, but it’s there if you look deep. — Taraji P. Henson
Sadness is acceptable in situations such as death or loss, but overall, it’s not a welcome subject.
After all, no one wants to be a Debbie Downer.
But someone has to be.
Someone has to have the courage to challenge a society that insists we deny our most fearful of feelings, and accept that admitting our sadness is the first step to genuine happiness.
Otherwise we are destined to continue to live our lives seeking the next big thing that we think will make us happy, only to reach the end and realize had we stopped covering up our sadness with distractions, happiness would have walked beside us all along.
The word ‘happiness’ would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. — Carl Jung
Why was the little girl sad? If she could have expressed it, here’s what she would have said:
She was sad that what once was will never be again. Sad that what is now will one day be what once was. Sad that people spend too much time fighting and arguing about things on the surface, when the underlying theme is that all we want is to be loved and understood.
Sometimes you just have to give yourself permission to be sad. And maybe eating hot dogs for breakfast with a little girl is what you need to feel the joy again.
How do I know?
Because that little girl is me.