New Sadness, Old Sadness

One of my favourite authors always tells this story about her growing up years and how they were shaped her her old-world grandmother and her diplomat, new-world mother. I’ve heard her say this story so many times in the past 8 years that I started to get sick of it because wasn’t there anything else? Now that I think about it, maybe some people say the same stories over and over again because they become the points of loci of their lives. All the circles they make no, matter where they go, stem from the centre of that locus. Their lives diverge outward from those of-repeated stories and events. Our lives diverge outward from those stories or events.

When I write about some of the saddest things I feel on this blog, and people message me to say it was very beautiful, what do you think it means? Does my sadness become a thing to adorn and admire rather than a thing to tend and heal? Over and over, I have started to recall the times I found refuge in the book Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke. I have not read his poetry. I have been to his homeland in Austria. I have quoted him in Instagram captions. Until I Googled his picture for this post, I had no idea what he looked like. But his collection of letters made a huge impact on my life, possibly saved me. This was over 3 years ago when I didn’t understand my own sadness, it wasn’t forming a shape that I could reconcile with everything I knew back then. I chanced upon this book that is a collection of letters he wrote to an aspiring poet who used to correspond with Rilke for critique on his unpublished poems. Instead, Rilke ended up critiquing the ways of living and thinking and feeling thereby leaving us with some of the most beautiful letters I’ve ever read. I don’t remember who gave the book to me, but reading it helped me make sense of all the non-sense in my life. I have quoted from it often and with abandon. The letters told me things I couldn’t tell myself and they didn’t admire my sadness from afar calling it a pretty thing or a beautiful shape. It tended to my wounds and said I must sit down and it held my hand for a little while until I was okay to try again.

“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.”

– Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke

I find that that’s what happens most of the time. You need to acknowledge your feelings and sit with it until you’re okay to try again. Moreover, you need someone to acknowledge your feelings and to sit with you. I used to find a water body and sit near it staring into the great unknown. It used to be a sort of happenstance of spending time in each others’ company. The water body and me. The first step to healing is to sit down with the wound and gather courage that you will need to walk along the way. The second step is to tend to it. At some point you can also remark at the beauty of sadness that is pinched into the skies making it red and pink and blue. Is that how we make our peace with sadness, by complimenting it? By telling it that it looks beautiful?

I have been having wonderful dreams for a few days. In every dream, I am taken care of. I am kind to myself, someone is actively caring for me, a huge wave of goodness swoops me over, and I find myself feeling safe. Maybe these dreams are a result of the active language clean-up I’ve been doing for myself. I tell myself the words no one tells me. When I have done something well, I tell myself I am proud of her. When I am sad, I tell myself I can take care of her. I have realised that I have to be my own guardian. Instagram has taught me that this is called ‘re-parenting your inner child’. It also may have something to do with the meditation courses Boy egged me to undertake because of my anxiety and generally shoddy mental make-up. Or it could be my mind playing tricks on me because that’s what minds are for. Today, I was telling myself that I will fill up all the cracks of my sadness with something shiny. Then, I realised, there’s no need to commodify our wounds, turn them into broken pottery and fill them with shiny gold. Our sadness isn’t here to be dolled up. It is here to be felt and it is up to us, how to feel it.

“So don’t be frightened, dear friend, if a sadness confronts you larger than any you have ever known, casting its shadow over all you do. You must think that something is happening within you, and remember that life has not forgotten you; it holds you in its hand and will not let you fall. Why would you want to exclude from your life any uneasiness, any pain, any depression, since you don’t know what work they are accomplishing within you?” 

– Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke

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