On Being Happy and Being Sad

You guys remember a couple of posts ago when I talked about how utterly crazy I go sometimes if people don’t respond to messages and how kind of ridiculous it is? Apparently I didn’t really get the message then because such absurdities continued leading to a near breakdown a few weeks ago.

And by breakdown, I mean me wandering around my house feeling sad and bitter for a few days. Wearing a dress to try and make myself feel better and taking barefoot walks and sticking flowers in my pockets and still not feeling any better. And when you can’t feel happy having flowers in your pockets, you really need to reevaluate, you know?

Anyway… there was a bit more to that situation than just someone not replying to something I said and me completely losing my head about it. I’m not quite that crazy. But I was perhaps disproportionately dismayed and bitter.

I’m all for bitterness and sarcasm in a joking sort of way and sometimes you have to watch movies and angrily mock the unrealistically happy endings, because no, he doesn’t still love her after all that; they should all just move on with their lives already.

But in all sincerity, I think most of us could stand to be a bit more dazzled by life. Because you can take barefoot walks in summer. Because you can put flowers in your pockets. Because the sun shines on water like diamonds.

I think sometimes that God has surrounded me in beauty. That he is painting pictures around me and above me, sending the sun to warm my skin, putting the stars in the sky to shine for me, pushing storms across the lake to catch my attention. But I just sit there miserably and ignore it all because I’m convinced that X, Y, or Z person doesn’t really care about me. Because they didn’t reply to something I said. Which, you know, in anxiety talk translates to: I never want to see or speak to you again.

Warsan Shire has this part of a poem that goes:

“you can’t make homes out of human beings
someone should have already told you that”

and I think that is part of what the problem. We (or at least I) give too much responsibility to other people, but no one else is going to be your home or complete you or anything like that. People are going to let you down whether by not replying to everything you say or something more painful. But they’re usually not doing it to hurt you but because they are people just like you trying to stay afloat in this mess of life.

Anyway, I want to be done with bitterness and being upset by petty things. I want to believe the best of people. I want to love them for who they are instead of who I want them to be. I want to feel the sun on my face and I want to look at the stars more.

In the words of Mary Oliver,

“I want to think again of dangerous and noble things. I want to be light and frolicsome. I want to be improbable and beautiful and afraid of nothing as though I had wings.”

That said though, I think there are times to be sad. And I think that sometimes people tell us that oh, God loves you, you have so much to be thankful for, and it sort of trivializes whatever you’re going through. Or if you hear about people with “real” problems–people with cancer or people starving around the world, and you don’t think you have a reason to be sad.

But pain is real, and whatever hurts you hurts you. It’s like that quote from Perks of Being a Wallflower,

“I think that if I ever have kids, and they are upset, I won’t tell them that people are starving in China or anything like that because it wouldn’t change the fact that they were upset. And even if somebody else has it much worse, that doesn’t really change the fact that you have what you have.”

So if you’re sad about something, even if you think it’s not that big of a deal, that’s okay. And being thankful is great and all, but you’re not always going to feel thankful.

In that Bible class I took last semester, one of the problems with Jesus in Mary Gordon’s book, Reading Jesus, was about when Jesus comes to Martha and Mary after Lazarus dies. And at first Jesus just cries with them.

It’s kind of weird, because Jesus is going to raise Lazarus from the dead. So Mary Gordon points out that his tears seem kind of melodramatic, and it seems like he could have stopped Lazarus from dying. It’s almost like he’s just putting on a show.

I understand Mary Gordon’s point. And in general, it seems like if God is really all powerful, he could make everything right on earth a lot easier. But there’s a lot I don’t understand about God.

So personally I think Jesus weeps with them because he knows that pain is real on earth. He’s not trivializing it. He doesn’t tell them that they have a lot to be thankful for, or that God is always there for them. He just weeps with them.

And then, eventually he does raise Lazarus from the dead, like a sign of coming hope. To show that one day, after his own death and resurrection, everything will be put right again. No more tears. No more pain.

“You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.” — Isaiah 55:12


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