Recently, I have found myself yearning for heartbreak.
When I say yearning, I mean that I let my half-conscious sleepy thoughts trail off into countless moment-of-demise scenarios. I mean that I read stories and blogs on the heartache of others and want to steal all of their crippling pain away, for entirely selfish reasons. I mean that I willingly watch episode upon episode of Grey’s Anatomy alone in bed at night so I can cry for their never-ending bouts with loss.
I guess the big question here is: why? Why would I ever want to wish on myself the emotions that wreak havoc on our lives, that swear us off love for good and leave us without trust or faith in humanity at large?
Over the last six months or so, I have found myself in a long-awaited state of contentedness. I threw away all of the clothes that I bought with other people in mind. I stopped trying so hard to do something as simple as exist as myself. I started doing yoga, I went to Bali, I healed.
And then, after welcoming this pleasantly unfamiliar state of mind with open arms, I started to get antsy.
I am, currently, antsy.
For awhile, I couldn’t place it. I knew I was searching for something, but I couldn’t quite figure out what it was. And then, one morning, after reading a piece about the desolation of sleeping alone, I realized I was searching for my sadness.
It dawned on me that I had no qualms about sleeping alone, about not having to carefully wriggle out of an uncomfortable cuddle while trying not to wake the heavy, breathing body beside me, about not having to worry that my restlessness might prevent someone else from the peace of slumber I flip-flop all over the bed in search of.
This revelation—for reasons unclear to me at the time—was unsettling.
For the majority of my life, sadness is what drove me. It was the subject of my poems throughout my angst-ridden preteen years. It was the gravitational pull that left my heart lingering in all the wrong places, with all the wrong boys, which in turn became the subject of my poems throughout my heartbroken teenage years. It is what allowed me to leave everyone and everything I knew behind at the drop of a hat when I left for college, because none of it gave me happiness—and it is ultimately what led me to the same angst and the same heartbreak in a new place with new people, because old habits really do die hard.
While I welcome with open arms a mind that is more or less clear and a heart that is free of its chains, I have felt a bit at odds with this new state of being.
Part of me wants to think that it is the peculiarly glamorous stigma attached to the “depressed artist.” Can I ever possibly attain the status of a creative genius if I don’t drink like Hemingway, try to escape my own reality down a rabbit hole of opiates like Carroll, or allow my words to follow me into an irrevocable darkness like Plath?
The other part of me wonders if maybe I’m just afraid of this newly emerged self, that this me isn’t as mysterious, as intriguing, as interesting.
I’ve never looked in the mirror and thought, “Huh. I really have no major complaints or criticisms.” I have never (honestly) looked at my relationship history and thought, “I did love you, and I did learn from you, but there is not one ounce of me that still needs you for my own happiness.”
This positivity—or perhaps just lack of negativity—is like learning how to define myself all over again. I wonder what to write about, and when I do write, I wonder if my words are less powerful than those who are expressing feelings that I evaluate as more ardent than my own. I wonder if I am worthy of such positivity, if I am genuinely content, or if I am just making excuses for myself to be complacent as I am.
So, the answer to the “why” of all of this, is that I am looking for my sadness because I’m terrified that I’ve lost a crucial part of my identity. It’s because, although this new part of me is telling me I deserve more than I’ve ever allowed myself, the old part of me is fighting back saying, “No, don’t be foolish, you’ll never be quite what you should be.”
And then I wonder, what’s really so bad about being happy more often than I am sad? My words are a little more optimistic and a little less cynical. My smile is a bit more genuine and my intensity a bit less grave. I consider others more than I am consumed by how others consider me. I’m in control of my emotions, they no longer control me. Is that really the type of person I should be afraid of being? Probably not.
Nevertheless, here we are.
It might take some time for my mind to reconcile the loss of one emotion and the gain of another. I might be in antsy-contentedness-limbo longer than I wish to be, and I might continue to allow myself to indulge in self-induced sadness from time to time.
And maybe all of that is okay.
Acknowledging the desires of our mind and body, giving attention to both the light and the dark, and simply recognizing what’s going on within us means that we are aware. If we are aware, we are heading in the right direction toward understanding and becoming authentically us, and if that means wanting to unabashedly, uninhibitedly, and unreasonably lose myself in sadness from time to time, so be it.
At least I’ll know where to find myself again when it’s all over.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Bryonie Wise