Susan Steen

Susan Steen

“Tears are words that need to be written.” ― Paulo Coelho

The sadness took me by surprise.

I’m normally such a happy person.

Where did these feelings come from?

I mentioned my sadness to some friends and immediately wished I had not — I had just exposed such a hidden part of myself. But in my sadness, it seemed I was looking for anyone who might be able to help me get back to me.

After many tears, I was able to pull myself together. “I’m fine,” I said. “It was just an odd hiccup,” but it was more than a hiccup, and I knew I needed to get a better handle on things. When I came across Coelho’s quote, I knew it was for me (and for many of you), and all those inconvenient tears were just words that needed to be written.

Emotions are funny things. You can plan for them but you can’t guarantee how you’ll respond. I read a lot of books in an effort to enlighten myself in regards to humans and relationships. I don’t know that I’d consider myself enlightened, but I’m not willing to push through life thinking I have all the answers. There are a lot of great thinkers who have wisdom to share based on personal experience and research.

In all of this reading, I do learn many right things, but you’ll remember I said even though you can plan for the emotions that appear out of nowhere, even though I know all the right ways to think about things, it doesn’t guarantee I’m going to get it right when the time comes. I’m guessing you might say the same.

There are two topics I want to address. First, don’t take it personally. I know, it isn’t the first time I’ve written about it, and it won’t be the last unless I miraculously am able to remember that lesson AND convince my emotions to remember it, too. The second is sadness. It’s one of our emotions, and like anger, it is one we tend to avoid, when perhaps we shouldn’t.

Not to discount any wonderful lesson-filled misery you might be experiencing at the moment; in the past few months I’ve felt a bit like I had a target on me. It’s been difficult to not take things personally because they’ve been pretty darn personal, and that seems to have led to my feeling all kinds of sadness, and that’s kind of messy.

When someone says something about me, even targets me on a social platform, it feels personal because it’s intentionally pointed at me. But if I take what I’ve been taught (over and over), I can break it apart to look beyond my hurt feelings to the person who said it. Did it have anything to do with me? Did it really have anything to do with me? My bruised ego feels as if it did, but really, they chose me because of things they were feeling — maybe about me or about their own circumstances.

You have most likely had similar circumstances — maybe someone decided to make an example of you on social media because you had different views on whether to eat meat and left you feeling shamed for your point of view, or maybe someone at work took the opportunity to make a dig at you when paying you a compliment would have been just as easy. At home, parents might ridicule their children who aren’t the best in some area, and I know the child will take it personally when it is the parent who has issues they need to deal with.

You and I are not the problem, the children are not the problem, but our egos like to think it’s all about us. Being able to not take things personally means being willing to look honestly at our ego. Ask yourself, did it really have anything to do with me the next time someone takes a swipe at you.

Even with all of that reading about how to not let people get under our skin, the other part of the equation is the fact that humans have emotions. I guess we can turn them off for a while, but when we turn off one, our feelings might come out in another way, unexpectedly. We were born with all of these emotions, and while some people feel more sadness while others feel more anger and others feel more happiness, all of the emotions are an important part of who we are.

I am a happy, bubbly person, yet I am a crier — as in, I cry easily at sweet actions, kind words and joyful moments. I am not typically a sad person, however. When we are feeling the unexpected, it’s probably a good idea to pay attention and do one of my favorite things, research it.

So many events in a short period of time made it difficult to put all of my learnings into practice, and worse, the weight of it all left me with this surprising sadness. I wanted out of the sadness. Make it stop! I screamed at no one in particular, and then in my research I came across some pretty wonderful news. Sadness can actually be good for us. Who knew!

Researchers at U.C. Berkley offer four ways people who are feeling sad benefit:

  • · They tend to have a better memory
  • · They tend to use better judgment
  • · They have increased motivation to deal with challenges
  • · They sometimes have improved interactions with others

I’ve tried to let my tears do the writing today, and I would encourage you to do the same. We learn through our painful experiences. Remember, life is just this, all of these uncomfortable events that are going to continue to be a part of our lives. We cannot escape them, but we can learn as we move through them.

When people lash out it is because of their pain, their unhappiness, and hurting you is so much easier for them than dealing with the real issues. And if the sadness comes, let it. If it doesn’t seem to want to leave, reach out to someone for help — sitting in a chilly pool is much different than drowning.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Susan Black Steen is a writer and photographer, a native Tennessean and a graduate of Austin Peay State University. With a firm belief that words matter, she writes and speaks to bring joy, comfort and understanding into each life. Always, she writes from her heart in hopes of speaking to the hearts of others.

Recommended for you