Sadness is the ringing in your ears…

by Kristin on December 27, 2012

in Culture, ideas & paradigms

Photo by heyjoe

Yep, for many of us it’s that season: time for the post-holiday, mid-winter, cabin-fever, SAD blues. (If you’ve never experienced this, you might want to stop reading—I don’t want to infect you!)

Yesterday, as I tried to pin down the not-happy feelings I’ve been experiencing, I pondered this question for a while: Am I sad because I’m grumpy or am I grumpy because I’m sad? (See how much fun it is to be me?) :)

The question struck me as funny, but also very important. For me, grumpy and sad are not part of the same emotion, which means one has triggered the other. And even as I asked the question, I knew sadness was at the root of the other feelings, and not just because it was the day after Christmas and I haven’t seen my daughters for a week.

Sadness is at the root because it’s the feeling that sneaks up on me—the feeling I can’t predict or control, which also means it’s the feeling I scramble to mask. Grumpiness can be louder and more garish, at least on the surface. Grumpiness masks sadness fairly well, because 1) it doesn’t ask me to be happy, and 2) it points to external factors, placing the blame on something outside of me. That bed wasn’t comfortable. Our house is a mess. People are rude.

Sadness emanates from the inside. Sadness is the blemish on your chin; grumpiness is all the makeup you plaster on it. Sadness is the bland fried rice you’re eating for lunch; grumpiness is the soy sauce and Sriracha you use to drown the bland and give you something new to complain about.

Sadness is the ringing in your ears, inexplicable, audible only to you and impossible to describe; grumpiness is the loud, raucous music you turn on to help you forget about the ringing for a while.

And maybe a day or two of grumpy is an OK alternative to the sad, as long as I know what’s at the root, and I know it’s not a long-term solution. But maybe I need to see the sadness for whatever it is, and just sit with it for a while. What do you think?

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  • http://ordinarilyextraordinary.com/ Amy Nabors (@amykiane)

    I think sitting with the sadness is okay. I feel as if I’m doing that now. Christmas was very sad for me with the exception of our Christmas Eve service at church which I always love. But a sadness seemed to permeate the time with family as my mother’s illnesses are becoming worse and slowly stealing her mind. Yes, sometimes we just need to sit with the sadness, but then there needs to be a balance as not to allow it to steal our joy or become depression. Is that odd to say I think we can have joy but still be sad or vice versa?

    • http://twitter.com/MarilynYocum Marilyn Yocum

      I don’t think it’s odd, Amy.

    • kt_writes

      Oh Amy, that sounds really hard. The holidays have a way of holding up the way things were, right next to the way things are. (Not that things are always worse, or better—sometimes they just are.) And no, it isn’t odd to see sadness and joy together. That’s the bittersweetness of life. Thanks for sharing what you’re experiencing.

  • http://twitter.com/MarilynYocum Marilyn Yocum

    Yes. It’s okay to be sad. No shame there. There are real reasons to be sad. Give them their minutes. Sit. Listen. Acknowledge it. Be present to it. Grieve it, the cause. Then press on, gently. None of us want our sadness to be a damper on everyone else’s party, but leaving it UNacknowledged is a sure way to make it even worse. Important post!!

    • kt_writes

      Yes, you’re exactly right. I think sometimes I struggle with sadness because I don’t know why I’m sad, or maybe I know but I don’t accept/respect the reason! Which, of course, is silliness. Sadness shouldn’t need to defend or prove itself.

  • http://www.leighkramer.com/ HopefulLeigh

    I always try to get to the root of whatever I’m feeling and why. It’s so important to just sit with our emotions, honoring them, before we go about the business of fixing them. Some feelings can’t be fixed and we simply need to express them for a moment before we go on with our day. Love you, friend.

    • kt_writes

      Getting to the root is so important! I guess what I’m realizing is that getting to the root might not mean knowing exactly *why* I’m feeling the way I am (see my reply to Marilyn)—it might just mean pushing the grumpiness out of the way and recognizing the sadness for what it is.

  • http://twitter.com/EstherEmery Esther Emery

    You know, I haven’t been here in a couple of weeks. I thought maybe it was because I’m sad. But maybe it’s because you’re sad. I have trouble imagining what it must be like to be the mom whose children leave for Christmas, but I was one of those children. I realized just this year (can’t believe it took me this long) that my persistent annual Christmas melancholy is related to that. From age 7 on I never spent Christmas with my mom. I’m thinking a lot about mothers and daughters, and the root of sadness. All messy stuff. You’ve got to sit in it, and I don’t envy you. But a lot of us are in it this week. Glad to have found my way to your site today.

    • kt_writes

      Maybe we’re both sad. :) And although it can be so important to be around others who are feeling what we’re feeling, it can also be too much, at times. I’m glad you wandered over here to empathize with me and share some of your own messy melancholy. Peace to you.

  • Sarah Louise

    This may be my favorite post. You really got to some deep truth here, and I am such a grump today, it’s like you wrote this one just for me. So thank you, sweetie, and here, have a cupcake. If I started to get honest about why I’m grumpy and sad, we’d be here all week, so I’ll leave it at that and say thank you again.

    • kt_writes

      Thank you. I can always tell that I’m getting to something important when I feel like I’m writing free verse poetry that no one will understand. :) But someone did! I’m glad we can be grumpy together (and I hope you have made your way to a better place these last couple of days!).

  • Debbie Grace

    Smiling softly because I’ve been feeling sad and grumpy, too. Thank you for your honesty and for this space to name my honest feelings, too.

    Blessings,

    • kt_writes

      I’m sort of amazed that so many of you experience this strange blend of feelings! I’m also in awe that we don’t need to feel so alone—that taking a risk to be honest about where we’re at can create connections with so many others. Thank you.

  • Katharine Grubb

    I am SO glad you wrote about this! I am definitely sad and grumpy and hate myself that I couldn’t fully figure it out. I’m grumpy because I like my routine and the holidays throw routine out the window. Also I’m eating too much sugar. And I’m fighting a cold. But my sadness is carried over from a difficult confrontation with a church leader from last week; I’m questioning my family’s foundational decisions; my husband and I are at a financial crossroads; I am fearful that my circumstances may project me into a depression (it has before); and that my children are not happy (but that goes with the territory of being a mother.) I like the phrase you used, “sit with it for a while”. I think that the seasons of uncertainty and doubt are really important in our lives and we become stronger in the long run from having faced it. Perhaps when my grumpiness goes away, I”ll be in a healthier place to deal with my sadness. Perhaps there is a new hope that my grumpiness is blinding me from fully seeing. Thank you! (Would LOVE to sit across from you, just once, and buy you a coffee!)

    • kt_writes

      First of all, I would love to sit across a table from you and talk away an afternoon. Some time we will do that! Secondly, I know this fear: “I am fearful that my circumstances may project me into a depression.” I especially carry that fear with me this time of year—January has typically been a difficult month for me, so I’m sure I tense up with extra dread whenever I have a “down” day. Peace to you, friend.

  • http://lisadelay.com/blog Lisa Colon DeLay

    I was grumpy before I started reading this and less grumpy now. I don’t have an thoughtful explanation for it, but I appreciate your thoughtfulness on the topic. I find your writing about it comforting, like coming inside for cocoa.

    I may need to do a bit of “dark night of the soul” re-reading…b/c this is where I’m finding myself. I know a dawn is coming, but I’m just not there. I’ve taken a true hiatus from my blog for the first time in years…and I thought this would be a pick-me-up. not so. I could blame the holidays, evil being up-close and personal lately, short days of daylight..but there’s something about it that is deep into the mysteries. Not enough is written on the subject…but this is sort of understandable b/c of the amorphous nature of it.

  • http://howtotalkevangelical.addiezierman.com/ Addie Zierman

    I love, love, love this post. Beautiful and so true.