Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Odd Faith (with lots of parenthesis)


I read (somewhere) about a new book coming out that suggests (something along the lines of) “embracing melancholy.”

I think I read about it in the Sunday paper, but I can’t remember…

I never read ALL the words in the newspaper (there are so many), so I can’t be totally sure, but I think the general theme of this book (if it was a book) was that we (the people) spend too much energy trying to maintain a perpetual state of happiness when instead we should be gettin’ all jiggy with the less appealing emotions.

The (alleged) article that I (may have) read (on Sunday or some other day) suggested that having an intimate relationship with melancholy…

[See what I mean about the jiggy?]

Where was I?

Apparently, (according to some rilly important author whose name I can't remember) having an intimate relationship with melancholy is precisely what enables us to experience pure joy which (kicks the ass of and) goes way beyond regular, garden-variety, happiness.

At the time (whatever time it was) I didn’t give the article much thought (clearly) but the notion has rolled around in my pea sized head (helloooooo in there….) for the past few days.

Could it be true on some level?

Is there something transformational that happens if simple sadness is allowed to have its way with you?

[Take me NOW, you swarthy sad feeling!]

Truthfully, I’ve been feeling flat for awhile -- maybe since October or maybe longer.

In the early days, the majority of my blog posts were tagged as “idiocy,”

[37% of all my posts to date are pure idiocy! Oh, the PROUD!]


Lately, my writing (on this-a here blog) has been somewhat more serious and reflective.

Something’s going on for me but I can’t put my finger on it.

[Which screws up my ability to get jiggy with it.]

But this book review (I might have read) made me realize that I possess an odd faith that if I am patient with this flatness (and if I roll, roll, roll in its hay) I will (somehow) be recreated and when I wake and fold back the covers I will be flooded with light and joy.

[And Papa Smurf will, like, totally be there too!]

45 comments:

Kyla said...

I agree...and faking The Happy is really exhausting.

PS: Can we start saying Oh, the Melancholies! That might be fun.

flutter said...

this post wins the award for best use of parentheticals and self links :)

liv said...

this is just what nina and i have been discussing. it's okay to be blue. not indicative of some psychiatric unhinging. grab it, lean into it, and at some point, let it fly away.

xoxo

Stella said...

I totally agree.
I just can't fake happy anymore. Maybe I need to embrace the melancholy and hope that the rebirth comes with the Springtime or Summer or fall....or next winter....

Mad Hatter said...

I've been away for a bit but can I just say that I like the reflective Jess. I always have.

As for this book (maybe?), I dunno. Sometimes I think that we can create our own happiness, nay our own joy. (never our own Oh the Joys, though. That's all you.)

Sayre said...

You've had so much to contend with - and still do. Being a mommy is a hard job. On top of that, you have to be wife. And employee/consultant person. Do you ever get to be J? Just J and nobody else? You don't have to go anywhere, but find that place in your head where YOU live and hang out there for a bit.

It's easy to lose that when you have to be busy dealing with LIFE, but it's always right there, waiting for you.

FUN-ky Mama said...

I think it's a very interesting concept. It hits home with me.

Sugarplum's Mom said...

I have a friend, Ms. Mayhem at http://mayhemandfoolishness.blogspot.com who is dealing with the melancholy... and what she has learned in her life, is that you must, indeed, get jiggy wit it.

All Adither said...

But I don't like the sadness.

jakelliesmom said...

You write where you are, and you are not afraid to feel and share. You're one complex lady.

LaskiGal said...

Dang. I love your posts. I really, really do. I need to make sure I put you near the top of my reader . . .

I'm with flutter--great use of parenthetical phrases . . . awesome, really.

I'm so not being flippant when I say maybe it is this long, long winter.

I gotta go embrace my melancholy now . . .

ZOLOFT MOM said...

this seems like a wise concept. really, embracing melancholy is just facing the true feelings that are inside, right? simple. profound.

Mimi said...

Gah. I agree with everyone. Also, Jess, you've had hell of a fall/winter: there's a lot of of family stuff going on, important stuff--your grandma dying, your relationship with your sister in law, the Mayor's injury and such. It's not the easiest year. I think having toddlers, while they're huge fun at times, can be grinding too. I'm glad Rooster is teaching you to colour outside the lines.

Ruth Dynamite said...

I know the article of which you speak, and I believe the author's name starts with an E. Oh yes! Eeyore! That's it.

Tis the season for melancholia. Nothing a little sunshine can't cure. And girl scout cookies. Boxes and boxes of girl scout cookies.

Mrs. Schmitty said...

I think it's okay to be blue. You have been through a lot lately. We all feel this way sometimes, it's hard being a mommy, a wife, and all of the other "people" we have to be. You're okay.

cce said...

Oh and Poet Smurf too, what would fantasy land be without Poet Smurf?

I'm telling you, my moods are fluctuate with the tides, ups, downs, ins and outs. Does this make me capable of achieving enlightment or, perhaps, does this make me bi-polar. It's so hard to tell some days.

Shannon said...

I hope to see some posts about idiocy real soon!

I do like you reflective posts, though. You're a great writer.

Jennifer said...

I think this alleged author with their alleged book might be on to something. Any emotion loses it's edge when you feel it for too long. Peaks and valleys are great. The peaks don't have to be sky high and the valleys don't have to be three miles below sea level, but variety (and the embracing of the emotions as they come along instead of trying to push them away) does seem like a good direction to go in. But what do I know? When I was going through my divorce, my shrink said I spent too much time focusing on the positive and not enough time embracing those other emotions.

fooped said...

I'm not sure what you read(or heard or whatever) in the paper (or book or whatever), but it makes me think of 'shenpa'(no, shenpa was not one of the stooges)

More if you're curious: http://www.shambhala.org/teachers/pema/shenpa3a.php Note, there are two pages; the "next page" icon is in the middle of the first page.

It may not be so much about cultivating melancholy as recognizing it, letting it be, but not holding on to it.

Good luck with that (she said, kicking her dharma wheel).

Beck said...

I think that our culture's insistence on happiness is pretty ridiculous, given that the world is a sad and wicked place. Happiness is a chance thing, and the rest is just duty and persevernce.
That's my extremely depressing philosophy, anyhow.

Paige said...

Been there, so I understand this post inside and out. You have to lean into your blues and embrace them to work through them and see what's there on the other side.

P

Circus Kelli said...

The word "melancholies" always makes me think of dogs -- "collies". Combine that image with, say... a watermelon, and you have an odd and slightly amusing mental picture.

I'm familiar with the "flatline." Sometimes it goes away on it's own. Sometimes it just needs a kick in the ass to send it on it's way.

(Clearly, I'm fulla crap and you should not listen to anything I have to say.)

LceeL said...

Thus the reason some people drink. The day AFTER the hangover is GREAT!

Jenifer said...

Oh how Beck makes me smile! I think she nailed it though in a way...the world and more importantly our worlds are not always joyful places. Learning to go on in spite of that, with a laugh along the way is what living really is.

You do that in spades my friend.

Kevin Charnas said...

I've often said it, to the rolling of many eyes, but once people immerse themselves in all of this crap-anti-depressant medication, then there really is no perspective left to tell the difference.

How do I know when I'm REALLY happy?

Because I've been really sad.

And when there's true perspective, there's acknowledgment and thus a real appreciation.

The rest is just numb. And might as well be void of real life.

I'm sorry that you've been feeling "flat" for awhile. I truly know how you feel.

Be patient with yourself, my friend. It shall pass...it will. You'll see.

Magpie said...

Balance. And sine waves. It goes up, it comes down. In there is the balance.

Emily N said...

That Eeyore comment was funny :-)

It's normal to be melancholic sometimes but it still sucks. I wouldn't want to embrace it. I just think this stage of life, having little kids - is very hard and often depressing. Speaking for myself, I love my kids like crazy but also REALLY miss romantic time with my husband, exercise, reading books, watching movies, talking on the phone with my friends... going to the bathroom alone... on top of that it's winter... when you add it all up, well who WOULDN'T be depressed?! "It takes a village", but for many of us, there ain't no village - in laws are far away, friends are busy with their own kids, etc etc. I mean, I CHOSE this life but it's still hard sometimes.

Chanda (aka Bea) said...

I couldn't agree more. Im all about having specatcular mope when the feelings and the circumstance arise. I write bad poetry, cry, read a deep depressing novel about female surpression of somesort, watch a tear jerker movie, spend a lot of time pondering the meaning of life and my place in it and eating some chocolate. I feel much better for having done it.

Sister Honey Bunch said...

It's all about the seasons of life. You'll be getting jiggy again soon, but don't sleepwalk through this particular period.

AND. And, I want to point out that a couple of your posts in the last two weeks has had a huge effect on me. HUGE. So you're in this season to help others as well.

Amen?

Anonymous said...

OK< your mom, the former librarian, found the book title and author - because of course I had read a review and remembered about as much as you did ;-) Here is a excerpt from the review:
Eric G. Wilson warns that the American quest for endless happiness is dangerous and boring.
In "Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy" (Sarah Crichton Books/FSG), Wilson, an English professor at Wake Forest University, argues that when "happy types" run away from sorrow they cut themselves off from a full life — and from the wellspring of creativity.

In a recent interview from his North Carolina home, Wilson talked about his anti-happiness crusade.

Pendullum said...

Once my best friend died it was so very,very hard to breath let alone be happy...
My husband truly understood...
As he loved him as well...He was our family...

My daughter still mourns him as he was her favourite Uncle... and he has been gone for so, so long...
And whenever I get my 'groove back 'I am brought down by another battle with cancer, another death...'
And a great deal of the time,I have been trying to find meaning...
Why so much loss?
Why so much pain?
But at the same time Jessica, I would not have given up meeting any one of these people... And it has been such an honour to know them, and for them to allow me in in the most intimate of times...
The pain stays as the dead, stay dead...
And that is the worst of it all, as we move on...
Feeling for you my dear friend...

crabapple said...

I think you have to fully embrace the sadness, allow yourself to wallow in it if need be (crying in the bathtub is my favorite), but set a deadline for yourself to let it go when you are done with the wallow.

If you need help with that, plan something or get together with someone who reminds you of the FUN that can be...and make an effort to embrace it. So much of what we feel comes from the self-talk in our heads anyway. So, when you are ready, make an effort with the positive self-talk, and the hanging with fun people. It works.

we_be_toys said...

Trying to act happy is way too much work, and satisfies no one. I have always maintained that without grief and sadness, happiness and joy mean so much less. The contrast between them is crucial to giving them both deeper meaning.
But that's just my point of view.

skiplovey said...

It's not about faking happy, it's recognizing and appreciating the good things that are happening in life. There's so many things to get blue about that that you really could embrace melancholy and be there for a long while. It's ok to feel down every now and again but I don't think it's a good idea to let yourself be down there too long.

Molly said...

Melancholy is the new happy.

Catizhere said...

((((melancholy))) There. I embraced it for you.

I believe that we, as people, are MEANT to be happy. Or at the very least; neutral. But sometimes, sometimes, you NEED to feel blue so that you can appreciate the Happy.

I'm sorry that you're feeling so blah.

Mel said...

I think your author was semi-right. I don't think we need to cling to our sorrow (which, let me add, I do NOT think you are doing); I think, though, that we definitely need to acknowledge it, process it, give it respect and give ourselves permission to be sad - because then we are free to feel good again when we come out the other side.
Nobody should ever reproach themselves for how they feel. And if you have been feeling bad, or feeling down, or feeling flat - well, that's just where you are in your emotional world right now. And that's okay. It's okay to be sad. It's natural, after all the things that have happened to you over such a short span of time.
I have faith that, once you've processed everything that has happened, you'll come back to simple, everyday gladness again. And until you do, the depth and beauty of your more contemplative posts are a good trade-off.
I love you when you are silly; I love you when you are sad.
Because I love you, period.

There. I said it. You can now consider me a creepy Interwebs stalker if you like. But you're my oldest blogging friend, and I care.

(((You)))

blue milk said...

I'm not thinking clearly so I don't know how to word this more imaginatively except to say.. yeah I relate and I share your eternal optimism.

I hope the mood and what's behind it lifts for you soon.

Jocelyn said...

Yes, yes, and yes. I am never more able to be happy than after a stretch of not-happy.

Just be. It will sort out.

Amanda said...

Hmm, not that I like copping to watching mindless drivel, but I watched a show the other night that requires a lot of "suspension of disbelief" from the viewer, so, suspending I'a'went.
Anyway, one line struck me, "It is only through death, the reality of ending, that life really has value." Rather bleak, but, I think it gives credence to not trying to eradicate or deny all melancholy. How would you know you were happy if you were never sad? Or, how would they know how sweet I really am if I weren't occasionally a cast iron bitch?

And with that I shall end my hijacking of your comments.

Janet said...

I like to embrace the up and down of emotions. My husband calls it "crazy" but, whatever. It works for me.

Chicky Chicky Baby said...

I embraced my inner melancholy a long time ago and it hasn't done sh*t for me.

Sigh.

Redneck Mommy said...

It's been two years and some.

I've embraced the melancholy and gotten to know my inner sad self.

Dammit. I want the happy back. I want moonbeams and rainbows and sparkles everywhere I go.

I'll keep waiting.

Emily said...

I agree with flutter and liv.

Also, it wins the award for best Will Smith and smurf references.

Dave Clapper said...

It's been too long since I've read here (maybe because I feel a little weird about reading here sometimes, considering we weren't exactly tight back in the days when we actually inhabited the same hallways (speaking of which, I was just back there for Writers Week, and I think I need to insist to Mr. Romano that he should invite you as a speaker next year)). It's sort of stunning to me how often you nail things (and again, probably stunning because of in-person memories). This post is just right, right, right on. One writer friend I highly respect said a few years ago, that as writers, each of us needs to "make sadness your buddy." But I think we have to do that to be healthy adults, writing or not. Pretending not to know sadness just ups the medication.