The Upside of Being Down

“You Change Your Valley Into A Peak When You Find And Use The Good That Is Hidden In The Bad Time.”

– Spencer Johnson

The following post has been written over the course of the past week, and is a journey through understanding and responding to sadness. It transforms and grows as you read through it, and my hope as always is that it connects with each person who reads it

I have felt downhearted more times in the past few years than I can recall. Some of the loneliest and saddest times have peaked as well. Be it a form of depression, feeling meaningless, or just feeling unimportant and ineffective; Today though, I find myself in a space of reflection and insight. While currently in the middle of this struggle, hope is also present.

This post is not intended to discourage, on the contrary, the intent is to encourage through transparency. Being transparent with our struggles is the only way to have a meaningful conversation about the inner workings of our heart, the feelings we experience, and the impact it has on our life. Therefore, I will be as honest as I can with the state I am in, in the hopes that it connects and empowers you the reader as I seek to connect and seek empowerment as well.

The theme of this article will be about the effects of sadness, and the power it has to teach us. At the core, sadness may be the greatest indicator of our purpose. You cannot be sad without trying to identify the source of it, because we desire joy and peace; and once you find the source, you find a choice. A response is needed: do we just lay down and accept that things just are what they are, or rise up and choose to do the work that must be done to climb out of the muck and the mire.

Sadness is necessary to move forward. In Disney’s movie Inside Out there is a scene where the character Sadness has to step in and help another character (Bing Bong) come to grips with the change that has taken place in his life.

Sadness-with-Bing-Bong

He cannot go on, and the character Joy has done everything in her power to help cheer him up. Sadness steps in, and instead of trying to cheer him up; she simply sits with him and acknowledges that his sadness is justified. In this simple act, she helps him accept that what has happened as the past, and she helps him get through the feeling of giving up in a way that the character Joy could not. He finds a new strength at this point of the movie. He finds the ability to move on, and team with Joy once again.

Sadness has it’s place in our life, and it has an important role in our growth and our purpose.

A common theme and open struggle that I’ve shared in previous blog posts, is my current inability to be comfortable being alone. I have come to understand that this longing for constant community comes from deep inside of me. I grew up as what I thought what was an introvert, and it turned out that I was actually just a shy extrovert; so the feeling of being torn when alone has been in my life since my adolescent days. I developed a habit of wanting to be involved, but being too scared to step out and join. I eventually became more comfortable with stepping out, but the habit of longing for more connection and involvement has stuck around. So there are times I find myself in a state of sadness because I feel disconnected, but I can see sadness as a teacher.

Here are five things sadness has taught me:

1. Aloneness is a part of life; so there must be a level of acceptance in those times. There are opportunities to grow in knowledge, strength, or creativity. Whether it is reading, writing, playing guitar, exercising, or being still; all of these activities are beneficial for me and ignite hope within me. I have written about loneliness and solitude in previous posts.

2. Sadness is a window into the soul. If you want to know what you desire, be attentive to your feelings. Just as energy and excitement in a station let’s you know you like what’s happening, sadness shows you what you need.

3. Take the time to grieve an unfortunate situation. There is a time for sadness, and we do need to acknowledge when a situation arises in life that brings heartache. Whether it is the death of a loved one, a personal injury, a missed opportunity, a feeling of failure, or the state of our nation; take the time to process that feeling inside.

4. Do something about it. If feeling disconnected from community, put forth the effort to connect. If grieving a death, remember that life and ask what they would have you do in this time. If you don’t like the state of our nation or environment, take baby steps toward making a difference. Do not let hopelessness take over.

5. Sadness calls us to be intentional, and that is why I choose to write about it today. “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” is a quote that holds a lot of truth. We can blaze a path through this life, we can even choose which path to follow; but if we are unintentional about our decisions, we forfeit ownership of the direction of our life.

I have learned so much while writing this article over the past week. I started in a state of despondency, hoping for insight to move toward meaning; and today, I find myself hopeful. There is a fine line between heartache and hopelessness, and we must recognize the difference, because there is always hope. I thank you for reading this article, and that it brings hope if you are in need; or in the very least, it will challenge you give sadness it’s place when it comes to you.

 

The Movement of Meaning

There is a movement taking place.

It is growing each day, yet it has always been a part of who we are. It is a part of our human story. Each day we wake into the question of “who am I to be?“; and each day we make a choice. Longing for insight, and looking for inspiration; we breathe purpose.

Is there a greater ideal to set our minds on than our meaning in life?

The question of our meaning leads to a lifelong answer because we discover it with each new day. It’s a common theme, and it is a timeless theme. It is at the core of philosophy, and begs our attention. In some of my favorite stories, the protagonist has to decide who they are going to be, and whether or not they will rise up to their calling. Luke Skywalker, Frodo Baggins, Neo, or Peter Parker;  each character had to decide whether or not they would take up the tasks laid before them. Likewise, some of our greatest tragedies and greatest villains, both in reality and fiction, have come from a purpose twisted or misunderstood.

When it seems as though there is no meaning to a life, despair takes the throne; and in that reign there is little hope to carry on. Yet a glimpse of hope, a glimpse of our purpose, can provide room to breathe again and carry on. Sometimes it takes only a spark of an idea in our mind, or a fluttering inside of our heart to wake us from our slumber, and open us up to the possibility of a big life.

“To be awake is to be alive…We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep.” – Henry David Thoreau from Walden

It is our duty to pursue purpose, not only to become alive for our own good; but to become alive and become a beacon for others.

Inspiration.

If we accomplish nothing else, may we at least find ways to inspire. Inspiration will find it’s way into our lives through books, blogs, movies, speeches, plays, songs, interviews, and so on; we must look for it, listen for it, and relay it to those around us because it is our duty to inspire. It is the movement of our time. The positive thinking/self development movement is nothing new, but is booming right now; and I believe it is because the world is rapidly changing, and opportunity is abounding. Those who have found peace or success can now reach millions with their story with an ease that did not exist before. Those who have found healing can lead others down the path of healing through sharing their own journey.

If we are willing to put in the work, if we are willing to read and listen, we can find inspiration all around; and in doing so may we catch a glimpse of our purpose in this life.