it’s okay to feel sad sometimes

Last week, for whatever reason, I found myself in a bit of a funk.

I typically wake up feeling excited to face the day, raring to go on my projects. I typically feel focused and motivated about my daily tasks. I typically look at the clock and can’t believe how late it’s gotten. Where did the day go? Is it time to start dinner already?

But last week, I was dragging. Last week, I felt stuck. I felt lonely and restless and, most of all… sad.

And I couldn’t pinpoint the reason. Everything was the same as it had always been.

It makes me feel vulnerable to write these words to you right now. It scares me a bit, to admit to feeling sad. Especially because I know that I have so very much to be grateful for. I used to feel guilty anytime feelings of sadness crept in. Like I wasn’t allowed to ever feel anything less than joyful and blessed. I wanted to be strong and self-reliant and cheerful, always. I wanted to comfort other people and never need comfort myself. I liked to think of myself as a giver, not someone who needed to cheering up.

But I realized that pretending to never feel sad is simply another way of building a wall around myself, pretending to be something I’m not, refusing to let people truly see me. I was trying to be “perfect” instead of trying to live wholeheartedly and authentically. I can be grateful for all the bounty and beauty in my life, and still have hard days and still feel down sometimes. I can hold both gratitude and sadness in my heart at the same time. And, I realized that never wanting to need anyone else is just another way of never wanting to be vulnerable. I like being able to give comfort to others. I need to trust that others like being able to give comfort to me sometimes.

Last week, I cried more than I’ve cried in the last six months put together. It seemed anything could set off the tears. Listening to a podcast about an empty-nest couple, the bittersweet pride in their voices as they talked about their youngest child heading off to college. Thinking about Mr. Murray, sleeping on the rug by the front door, and wishing that I lived in the same town as my parents, that I could walk right in and surprise him with a ginormous hug. That commercial with the ostrich who learns to fly, Elton John’s “Rocket Man” playing in the background. It was like I walked around with this constant lump in my throat, just waiting to see what would cause the tears to spill forth.

It was so weird. It was so not the version of myself I have come to believe in over the past three decades. I have never been a crier.

One afternoon my brother called to say hi—a routine thing for us—and after a few minutes of talking, I started crying. Like, ugly crying, the kind when you can’t fully catch your breath, and you stay quiet on the line because you know as soon as you try to talk your voice will break again.

My brother was so great, as he always is. He sat on a bench outside the bar where he was meeting some friends for happy hour, and he patiently stayed on the line and talked to me for a little while until I was ready to hang up. He didn’t sound alarmed by my weepiness. He didn’t rattle off a list of things I should do to feel better. He didn’t tell me all the reasons I shouldn’t be feeling the way I was feeling—all the reasons I should only feel joyful in my wonderful life. Instead, he told me that it was okay to feel sad sometimes. He told me to let myself feel what I was feeling. He reminded me that, even though I was feeling genuine sadness in that moment, that the sadness wasn’t going to last forever. That I would begin to feel better soon. And, in the meantime, he told me how much he loved me. He said that multiple times, and each time he said it I began to cry again—but out of gratitude and love for him more than sadness. When we hung up the phone, I still felt sad, but I felt so much better than I had before he called me.

My wish for everyone reading this is that you have a friend in your life like I have my brother. Someone who knows you, at times, better than you know yourself. Someone who isn’t afraid of your ugly crying. Someone who says exactly what you need to hear, exactly when you need to hear it.

{This photo was taken shortly after another time I cried with Greg, when I was visiting him in NYC. It was shortly after Celine died and I was hit with a huge wave of missing her.}

One thing I’ve learned about myself is that I don’t tend to get angry or annoyed or frustrated very easily. I don’t yell or snap at people very often. When I get tired, I don’t get crabby. I get sad.

Growing up, when I would feel weepy, my mom would say gently, “Dallas, honey. Go to sleep. You’re tired. You’ll feel so much better when you wake up.”

She was pretty much always right. I would feel better after a nice nap.

So that’s what I still do, if it’s a possibility, when I notice myself feeling “off.” I take a nap, or I sleep in late, or I go to bed early. And I do usually feel a bit better when I open my eyes again. Like the gray film over the world has been swept away. The light seems a little clearer, a little more sparkly.

Other things that made me feel a bit better last week: reading for pleasure; drinking tea and eating dark chocolate; texting with family and friends and Allyn; doing some yoga; going for a walk outside; working on my novel and surprising myself with the story; watching silly videos online; going to the dentist {I was worried I had a cavity, but I didn’t!}

This week, I’m back to feeling much more like myself. The waves of sadness I felt last week seem almost like a strange dream. But I know they’ll be back at some point, because that sadness is a part of me just as happiness is. My varied emotions are all puzzle pieces that fit together into the beautiful, complex mess of being human. As Brooke Castillo reminds us in many of her podcasts, life is about contrast. We wouldn’t have light without darkness. We wouldn’t have happiness without sadness.

In order to embrace my deepest, truest self, I have to be brave enough to acknowledge all of my emotions, not just the ones that make me feel strong and comfortable. I’m learning that embracing my sadness does not give it power over me, as I once thought it would. Just the opposite: only by opening up about feeling down—to myself as well as to others—am I able to move through the discomfort, and, eventually, to move past it.

 

Your turn {if you want}:

Grab your journal or open a new document on your computer and use the following questions to spur on some “free-writing”:

  • When was the last time you felt sad, or angry, or frustrated, or “off” in some way? Was there a certain reason, or was it harder to pin down?
  • What helps you feel better when you’re feeling down?
  • What advice would you give a friend who calls you feeling upset? What might happen if you shared those same gentle words and generous spirit with your own self and your own heart?
  • What is an emotion that makes you uncomfortable? How might you take small baby steps to embrace this emotion in your life?

Questions for Deeper Conversations: Judgment

Happy Thursday, friends! I have a bit of a lower-key day today. Planning to do some writing + editing work at home, and then I’m meeting up with my sweetie for dinner. Thinking about whipping up a batch of these classic cookies as a treat! Allyn is heading out tomorrow for a boys’ weekend with his best friends from high school, and I’m going to drop him off at the airport in the morning. It’s a rowdy sports weekend, so I’ve got my fingers crossed nobody hurts themselves. #rememberyourenot18anymoreguys 😉

air hockey, guys, games, guys weekend

Allyn and his friend Justin played an intense round of air hockey at my birthday party.

Moving on to today’s topic… a few people have asked what questions we are discussing in the Young Adult Community Circle I am leading at my church, intended to spur deeper, more meaningful and authentic conversations. I thought I would share these questions here on the blog, in case they spur some deeper conversations of your own — with longtime friends, new acquaintances, family members, loved ones, or even perhaps with yourself! These are great questions to journal about as well. 🙂

Week One Topic: Home

sunset at home

Community Circle Questions : Week 2

Theme: Judgment

  • In what ways do you notice yourself judging others?
  • What are you most judgmental about? What do you get annoyed by? Why do you think this is?
  • What do you judge yourself most about? Why?
  • What do you feel others judge you about? Have you ever had an experience with someone else negatively judging you?
  • How does your self-perception differ from others’ perception of you?
  • How can you step away from judgment and give others, and yourself, more grace?

“When you judge others, you do not define them; you define yourself.”
Earl Nightingale

Questions for Deeper Conversations: Home

Happy Friday, friends! Hope you have something fun planned for tonight + this weekend! This afternoon I have some tutoring and work on the agenda, and then I’m meeting up with Allyn and some friends in the city for dinner and a movie! Should be fun. Tomorrow I have a full day of tutoring, an evening meeting at church, and a picnic dinner date with my sweetheart. And then Sunday I’m leading another session of our Young Adults Community Circle at church!

I had a few people ask me what topics and questions we are covering in the group, since I wrote about how the community circle is intended to spur deeper, more meaningful and authentic conversations than you might traditionally have with people you are just meeting. I thought I would share these questions with you here on the blog, in case they spur some deeper conversations of your own — with longtime friends, new acquaintances, family members, loved ones, or even perhaps just with yourself! These are great questions to journal about as well. 🙂

sunset at home

Community Circle Questions : Week 1

Theme: Home

  • What does “home” mean to you?
  • Where are you currently living? Does it feel like home? Why or why not?
  • Who are you currently living with? What do you love about your living situation? What do you struggle with?
  • What thoughts do you hold in your heart about your childhood home? Do you return there often?
  • Where have you lived that has felt like home?
  • What dreams do you have for a future home?

“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”

-Maya Angelou