The Blessing of Sadness

By Don Arnoudse
Bio


For as long as I can remember, I have been an optimistic person. I’ve
always taken great pride in my natural inclination to see a ‘silver
lining in every cloud’. ‘Making lemonade out of lemons’ was one of my
favorite clichés.
 
Imagine
my surprise when, in a recent conversation with Ann, my personal coach,
I heard her say she felt a deep shiver of sadness while listening to
me. It brought me up short. I had been talking about turning 59 years
old, how good life was right now and, at the same time, how acutely
aware I was of how fast time was flying by. When I stopped, took a deep
breath, and listened to my body, I realized that deep down there was a
pool of sadness within me. This is an emotion I’ve kept at bay for a
long time.
 
I’ve learned in my work with Julio Olalla at the
Newfield Network that sadness is not something to be avoided. Contrary
to what our culture would have us believe, it is a valuable emotion—one
that reminds us of what we truly value. When we mourn the loss of
someone or something, we are brought up close and personal to that
which truly makes our life worthwhile.
 
I’ve decided to
‘practice’ sadness. To let it in, rather than deflect it. I am
beginning to understand the gift it is. In great sadness, we have a
profound opportunity to take another look at our life and make course
corrections. Ironically, sadness can also give us access to gratitude.
Sadness points us to what we must accept in life in order to achieve
real peace.
 
From now on, whenever I feel a glimmer of sadness,
I intend to sink into it a bit before moving on with my busy life. I
feel sad about a number of things even now…
 
My father died last
October. I felt initially overwhelmed with sadness and then, in my
eulogy of him, I was so grateful for the many things I had learned from
this modest man.
 
My two children are 21 and 22. I am sad for
the many mistakes I now see I made as a parent. As they create their
independent lives, I am sad for the distance between us. I am so
grateful for them in my life and I so value my relationship with them.
My sadness points out my need to accept that I did the best I knew how
to do at the time and reveals my commitment to love them for the rest
of my life.
 
I am increasingly aware of my mortality. I do the
‘life math’ and am sad that I won’t have as much time as I would like.
My sadness points out how much I love life, my fascination with so many
things, and the eagerness with which I live most of my days. What a
blessing!
 
I am sad for my friends who have already died. I miss
them and I am so grateful for the contributions they made to who I am
today. I pledge anew to make time for the friends I have today.
 
I
am sad for the state of the world we inhabit. War, hunger, poverty, the
environment, terrorism, racism, greed and exploitation of the powerless
and all the other seemingly intractable problems sometimes seem so
overwhelming. I am glad I no longer live with my ‘head in the sand’,
naively seeing only the bright side. I commit to engaging with the
world, not hiding in fear.
 
As I hear the life stories of my
coaching clients, I practice letting myself simply be with their
sadness for losses they have suffered. Rather than try to cheer them up
right away, I acknowledge and am grateful for the connection this
allows me to have with them. I am grateful for the shared journey we
are on and for the trust they have in me that allows them to
communicate their pain.
 
I yearn for peace at this point in my
life. My sadness gives me clues to what I must learn to accept to find
that peace. I accept that I am a human being who makes mistakes. I have
a dark side. I sometimes let people down, even those I most love. I
sometimes betray my own values. I procrastinate on important things. I
backslide on resolutions I have made. And these are all things that
make me who I am. These are the struggles that have shaped my character
and remind me of what I prize in life. My wounds have given me
compassion for others. My failures have allowed me to appreciate
success and the value of continuing to show up and give things my best
shot. My tears allow me to get close, to drop my mask and be intimately
connected with others.
 
So, when you see me with tears in my
eyes, please don’t try to cheer me up. Be grateful, along with me, for
the blessing of sadness.

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