Sadness is Flowing Through Me and I’m Totally Cool With It

...then she sent this immediately after. Good one, skank.

I was introduced to the idea of “mindfulness” around four years ago by my therapist.

Now it’s all the rage and there are books on how to be mindful in business, weight loss, parenting, and even extreme kiteboarding.

Basically it boils down to just paying goddamn attention to what’s going on inside.

As someone that has ADD and former addictions I know little about being present for what’s going on inside. I’ve written about this ad nauseum, but other than occasionally, I haven’t really put it into practice. One of the challenges with mindfulness is that it’s usually wrapped around meditation. I’m not flexible enough for the lotus position and I don’t have  any patchouli oil to burn. Plus, new age music gives me the creeps.

I read a story from a Harvard prof, Ellen Langer, who’s been studying mindfulness since the 1970s. Nobody paid much attention to her until recently even though she wrote the preeminent text  on it back in the 80s.

Anyway, she says meditation isn’t necessary for mindfulness. Her research  confirm this.

So, I’ve been carving out a few minutes every day while traveling to and from work on the train where I turn off Sirius or replays of my own podcast (yes, I sadly listen to my own stuff) or the best of The Lemonheads (which I must admit I stole online to check it out – didn’t like it, so I deleted the album. Is that wrong?).

I literally just sit and not think and see what happens internally.

The first few days, nothing came up. After a few minutes I got bored and went to my scorpion solitaire game, which is the most awesome solitaire game this side of mahjong.

Then on day three of my mindfulness practice sadness FLOODED me. I always stand up on the train, always, but I nearly needed to sit down.

And I couldn’t figure out what was happening.

I got curious about it and tried to source the pain, but it didn’t connect with any life events. I have a good job, wonderful relationship, fun parents, I pay my bills, and get to take my dog to work. Nothing particularly stressful or difficult is going on in my life.

Then it hit me – I’ve been avoiding sadness my whole life. Now it’s racing toward me like a tidal.

“Yes, I think you have a lot of sadness on the way,” agreed my therapist. Then she shrugged.

She’s right. And that’s the message I have received from paying attention. I’m so out of it I don’t even know what the sadness is all about. I just know I have a fartload of it.

This is surprisingly healthy and I intrinsically know it. That’s why the pain doesn’t concern me. It’s difficult to stay in sadness when it happens, that’s for sure. I want to escape in any way possible and with a smartphone I can get myself out with  one tap. I’m trying to force myself to remain present for the pain until it processes. Which is the best course of action.

And it does pass. I’m usually only bummed out for maybe an hour at a time.

It’s tough for people to understand. If you say you’re sad they’ll ask you, “What about?” When you answer, “I have no idea,” they flash back to that Zoloft commercial with the cartoon egg. They think you’re in big trouble.

Ironically, not knowing what I’m sad about actually makes it easier to deal with. Because I don’t have to analyze it or judge it. It just is. So, if I can muster up the courage and patience to dive into the pain, my body will figure out what to do with it and I’ll be fine.

Now, if I ever can’t get out of bed or something, then I’ll start experimenting with mind-blowing psychoactives purchased on seedy overseas online pharmacies. I’m not above that.

When I told my friend Suzanne that I was feeling sad, first she sent this photo to me.
When I told my friend Suzanne that I was feeling sad, first she sent this photo to me.
...then she sent this immediately after. Good one, skank.
…then this immediately after. Good one, skank.

22 thoughts on “Sadness is Flowing Through Me and I’m Totally Cool With It”

  1. Michelle says:

    I can’t say I’ve ever felt things and not known why (unless you count once a month when I’m surrounded by idiots and I have to do everything myself because everyone else is hopeless). I can see the logic of you having referred pain, as it were, though, especially if you didn’t deal with something as it was happening. I applaud you for being willing to deal with it head on. And it’s good that you have your therapist to help you should you get stuck. Good luck!

  2. Nonso says:

    Stumbled on this blog yesterday, and I’ve been reading a lot of the posts.

    I really love how real and really funny you are.

  3. Kat says:

    The ability to let yourself be still and let your mind bring up what it will is truly a learned ability. A lot of us have a hard time doing it. You seem to have found your way to it though. It also sounds to me like you have a great therapist 🙂

  4. Jana says:

    I’ve spent a lifetime pushing down and ignoring any strong emotion. I’m going through some difficult times these days and I’m mindfully letting my mind and body feel and express whatever emotion comes my way. While its uncomfortable for me, it’s also cathartic and I hope healing!

  5. Some Kernels of Truth says:

    Nice post. I know what you mean about the healthy aspects of actually dealing with sadness and letting it come, despite the initial knee-jerk reaction to try to escape it like with a phone, etc. Louis CK once talked about this on Conan O’Brien’s TBS show, and it resonated with me — ever see it? Here’s the YouTube link (he starts talking about sadness after about a minute in):
    So true…can be hard to do, but as you said, it’s the healthy approach….thanks for the reminder!

  6. JiggerJ says:

    If I stopped and thought nothing I’d be sad at that moment too. Tell a beaver to go against its nature by not building dams and it would be one sad creature. It is in our nature to think.

    If there is one flaw in human nature it is this: We think we are flawed and must always search high and low to fix it. So few of us understand that whatever a healthy, chemically-balanced human thinks, feels, or does, it is exactly what humans think, feel, and do. It’s not a flaw. It’s not right or wrong, as long as we’re doing what is in our nature to do; and thinking nothing is not in our nature.

    When you feel a sadness while thinking nothing and doing nothing, this should tell you that you are the type that needs just the opposite. You need to think MORE.

    I follow you on Twitter and I find it obvious that you are an intelligent person. The one thing intelligent people need more than anything else is LOTS of mental stimulation. Not less.

    Soooo, think about it. 😛

  7. Megan says:

    I like to lean into my sadness, wallow in it a bit. Turn on some sad music or just find a private spot to have a good cry.

    I believe that we need to feel what we’re feeling, even if we don’t want to, or we cannot get past it.

  8. Kate Hall says:

    First, the solitaire and mahjong sentence made me, literally, laugh out loud. Both of those are my absolute favorite games and I use them to escape the chaos of life. This sadness thing freaks me out when I have it. I usually find myself in situations where at any moment I could just start bawling – I’m on the verge of a meltdown. For me, it’s usually when I put a lot of pressure on myself and I’m not measuring up. I feel like a failure and everyone will see that I’m a failure. Ick. I usually pray/meditate and sometimes that helps, depending on how into it I am. I’m not so much into facing my sadness though. I’d rather play mahjong.

  9. May says:

    Wow, what I completely random thing. I just set up my new blog yesterday and got all the social media for it. Its barely up and running but I wake up this morning to see you followed my fledgling blog on Twitter. So I checked out your site and low and behold – I just had this discussion about mindfulness with my psych last week (I also have ADD) and I keep mulling over how I’m supposed to make that work. Thanks for the tips. Also – you have terrified me. But energized me. Oh hell, I don’t know how to feel about it I should probably just shove the feelings down in a hole and decide to deal with them later! Yeah, that seems about right.

  10. My Inner Chick says:

    …I can muster up the courage and patience to dive into the pain, my body will figure out what to do with it and I’ll be fine.**

    Yes, there is no way around it. Dive in. Embrace it. What else can you do?

    Loved this post. xx

  11. Leslie says:

    This happens to me from time to time too. Over the years I’ve learned to keep my pain to myself because I really really don’t like being vulnerable or letting people see me cry or feel this way. I usually silent my phone but I play on it and ignore texts. I’ve got a ton of anxiety lately and it’s gotten really weird over the last month but I’ll get passed it. I’m glad you know what’s going on & you don’t have to dig and dig and dig. I hope your having a great Saturday.

  12. barbie says:

    You do realize you have 1st world problems, right?

    1. D.J. Paris says:

      Well, that’s clearly better than having third world problems! Duh.

  13. kflo says:

    Mindfulness helps me keep control of my scatterbrainedness, like the time I left my cash at the ATM seconds after withdrawing it. I too have “the sadness”. However, it’s random scenes in B-rated movies that tend to bring on unplanned emotional releases aka the dreaded ugly cry: the moment before Tea Leoni and her dad are overwhelmed by the tidal wave in Deep Impact, the scene when Denzel Dub’s son visit him in prison in Flight…

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  15. Tom says:

    As someone who experimented with meditation for just over two years, I believe that we all react in our own individual way. My own experience left me with a sense of desperation and an intense level of anxiety, and yet, somehow, I persisted, eventually mastering the lotus position and managing to stay put for 45 minutes.

    I’d have to say that meditation brought out the real me that I hid behind a veil of sorts- a person with elevated anxiety. It also destroyed my ambition to the point where simply existing was enough, and my interest in what is most beautiful in the world was gone.

    Anyways, hope your experience is nothing like mine and that you benefit, but after reading your post, I just wanted to share that, based on my own experience, it is possible meditation could harm you (however unlikely the possibility).

    1. Tom says:

      I forgot to add- you can always get drunk and forget it ever happened, AND you can always fall out of love with anyone simply by meditating (then get drunk to get over the meditation).

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  17. Erin says:

    I love that you said you had a fartload of sadness.
    I’m glad you learned that you can cultivate mindfulness without meditating or yoga or fill in the blank. I’m reading a book right now called “You are Here” by Thich Naht Hahn. And you’re writing about exactly what it says in the book.
    The basic point is to just notice your breathing, in and out but don’t force it. Just doing this makes me come back to myself and I feel much more present. It’s this feeling of mindfulness & it’s very refreshing and familiar. When sadness comes up, just allow it to be there and keep breathing with mindfulness. It’ll eventually fade away, only when you have been mindful of its presence the whole time it leaves you feeling transformed a little bit after.

    Anyway, I highly recommend the book or any of his writings.

  18. Ankita says:

    I read my own blog posts all the time, so watching your own work is not as pathetic as you think. Unless it involves nudity, another person and a mirror — that one I have my doubts about.
    On a more serious note, the wave of unexplained sadness that you’re experiencing is familiar to me. I believe there is a word for the changes in your psyche at this point — it’s called teenage. Clearly you bypassed a chunk of it and are experiencing it now — it got unlocked by your mindfulness. The positive side to all of this is that you get to be conscious and calculating about teenage — not something most of us can do. You can process the confusing, irrational, crushing spells of sadness (and any other stupid emotions bugging you) with maturity and professional help — ie. the adult way. So all power to you, and as a fellow victim of stupid sadness waves, I assure you that you’re not alone.
    I say be happy or die trying… that’s how I think nowadays. Of course, knowing the root of your sadness is the first step to that. Good luck!

  19. Amie says:

    I like your blog but I don’t know why. I mean that in a good way, I promise. Stay just like this 🙂

  20. Lee says:

    Yoga pants are for wine night. Instead of meditation, I pet the dog – it actually helps a lot. You should listen to your pod-casts – you are hilarious and laughter also helps. But . . . the Lemonheads? Seriously?

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