March 8, 2012

The Happy Girls and the Sad Ones


“We all want to do something to mitigate the pain of loss or to turn grief into something positive, to find a silver lining in the clouds. But I believe there is real value in just standing there, being still, being sad.” 
― John Green
It's all over Pinterest. It's spelled out in loopy, flowery letters, plastered on little girl's walls next to their cribs, and printed over pretty backgrounds. The phrase turned iconic, because Audrey Hepburn said it. And I love Audrey Hepburn-um, who doesn't?- but I think she's wrong. Obviously, it's getting under my skin enough that I felt I needed to write about it (even though it's taken me a couple months to try and word it). Sorry Audrey.

Let me first say this: I've struggled with depression on and off throughout most of my life. I wouldn't wish it on anyone. Depression is a whole other realm of feeling, and cannot and should not be brushed under the rug. There is quite a difference between sadness and depression, though. And sadness? Sadness can be a good thing.

Sadness is real. We'd be robots with only one emotion. I try to be honest on this blog, and honesty means showing all sides. We all get sad about things. Whether it's something small and disappointing, to something big like a loved one passing away, it's normal to be upset. The process of working through sadness builds our character, I think. We experience, we learn, and we grow. It also makes us think more clearly sometimes; I thought this article explained it well. How can we appreciate happiness if we have nothing else to compare it with?

I usually write the most when I'm sad. As you all know, I've blogged through quite a bit of it. I don't know why it makes the words flow, but I'm able to write the best when I'm a little down. It's not that I just write sad things when I feel that way; I think it makes me see another angle of life, and I refuse to believe I'm less pretty when I allow myself to feel. I tire of hearing pure optimism as being some sort of gold standard we should all aim for, because letting yourself be still and just be sad for a little while has value. It can be a resting place. Letting some tears fall when your heart hurts is often the best way to mend it.

I don't ever want to teach Millie that happy = pretty, and therefore sadness = unattractive or wrong. I want her to understand that it's okay to have emotion, and that she's beautiful whether she's happy, sad, frustrated, confused, and everything else. Plastering a smile on her face would never make her a prettier girl to me. But empathy and understanding would make her even more gorgeous.

Of course I hope she has a happy life full of good things. I also hope, however, that she doesn't fight sadness when it's the right time to be sad. And when she is, whether it's unrequited love for a boy at school, or an imperfect piano performance, or the disappointment of a friend moving away, I never want to scold her into cheerfulness or pretend it isn't a sad thing.

Instead, I want to take her into my arms, stroke her hair, and simply say, "It's okay. I know. I've been there, too."

14 kind comments from you:

Sue said...

I love this post. Without sadness we wouldn't know what happiness is. There have been low points in my life where I had to find the will to get out of bed and because of that I appreciate every single day that I get to smile without my heart breaking. There are still sad things in my life and I agree with you, sometimes it's okay to be sad about them.

Jenn said...

I agree with Sue- how would we know what happiness is WITHOUT sadness?? It makes total sense.

Good for you for writing about this. There is so much weird stuff floating around Pinterest that looks "cool" but makes almost no sense at all. Like that other quote? About nothing tasting as good as skinny feels? Those skinny girls have yet to sample my fudge. I am TOTALLY sacrificing skinny for that. ;)

Deanna said...

I think emotions are like colors. And the bright, shiny happy MUST be balanced with a fair amount of dark, thoughtful sadness or else it is empty-false.

Beautiful post. I love soaking up your amazing writing style.

Mrs.B said...

I know I've said it a million times but you are your writing are beautiful!!

Couldn't agree more with the post.

Michelle said...

I think I say this about every one of your posts, but I LOVE this. I love your honesty. You nailed it. It seems like sadness is equated to immaturity and weakness. Sadness is so necessary. And as an emtional girl by nature (who has also struggled with some depression), this is has been tough for me. I try to be optimistic, but sometimes you just need to cry and you just need to feel. It's part of the mending/healing process.

Seriously, I wish you and I could go get a cup of coffee and talk forever (or as long as our shyness allows. ha!)

Sarah said...

Amen, sister. Well said. There's a right time to cry and another to laugh; a right time to lament and another to cheer. Audrey Hepburn herself struggled with depression, which makes her statement ring with even more depth of feeling.

greaterexp said...

My husband's grandfather, whom I never met, was a wise man with a basically very optimistic outlook on life. He was swindled out of 2 rather large fortunes that he had worked hard for, and he had his share of other losses. But when asked how he felt about those losses, he said, "It's just contrast." I think he could be optimistic because he was aware of that. He seemed to understand that few bad things last forever, that God was in control, and that in the big picture, life was still a wonderful thing.
I loved this post. You show a wisdom beyond your years to understand this already. Maybe our goal shouldn't be to simply have a happy life, but a worthwhile one.

Kaylee said...

Yes, yes, yes!! I very much agree with you. And with the comments above! You can't know happiness without sadness, and yes, it teaches you SO much! Thanks for this post, I think it's great!

Fran said...

I couldn't' agree more with this post. There's really no way to know happiness without sadness. It does teach you a lot - I know sadness (and yes, depression) has taught me a lot so far.

ginanorma said...

Erika, I honestly have never seen this before, but you know what? I AM WITH YOU.
boy am I with you. thank you for speaking up and staying true, (can you see Jesus saying this?) THAT'S the bottom line.

Love you girl, Amen

The New "Normal" said...

Love this post. I saw that quote a while back and something about it just struck me wrong. I couldn't figure out why I didn't really care for it, but your post said it exactly! The sadness in life helps us to appreciate the happiness and it goes into making us who we are.

Jamie said...

I totally agree with this 100%. I want to teach my daughter to be honest and true and strong and self-sufficient.

charla beth said...

this gave me chills. your honesty is always oh-so refreshing.

beka said...

right. on.
i greatly dislike those people who seem to think nothing is sad or disappointing; that everything is always dandelions and bubbles.

goodness, i love that part! "I tire of hearing pure optimism as being some sort of gold standard we should all aim for, because letting yourself be still and just be sad for a little while has value. It can be a resting place. Letting some tears fall when your heart hurts is often the best way to mend it."

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