Sadness - An Unwanted Companion

I'm not a huge fan of Mondays. No matter how good of a weekend I've had, I'm always a little bummed that I'm back at work. Don't get me wrong, I love what I do, but transitioning from days spent playing with the kids and hanging out with my wife are significantly more enjoyable than work. 

Even though I never fail to shake the Mondays, they still show up every seven days. 

As vacations come to a close, I always feel a similar sense of sadness at the thought of carefree late nights and laughter around campfires fading away as we head back to reality. The same thing tends to happen around the holidays. Hours spent with family are replaced with the normal daily routine. I probably sound like a pessimist about now, but I am certain I'm more of a realist, just embracing what is but not necessarily making it worse than it is.

There are a number of other sources for some humdrum and mildly sad moments in everyone's life. They hit us and we move forward despite not feeling like we are on our emotional A-game. But there is something else out there that lurks with unexplained timing. Precipitating events are hard to nail down because they always seem to change. Unexplained sadness has always been a part of my life. Sometimes I just wake up that way, sometimes it comes on as a slow build over the course of a day or even a week. And, once in a while, it hits me like a ton of bricks; like I'm sitting on a calm, quiet beach enjoying a sunrise and the waves rise without warning, knocking me clean on my ass.

Regardless of the type of onset, it comes and sometimes, it stays. So many people I know experience the same thing; some not as frequently as I do, others feel the sadness much more often. The point is, I know I'm not alone in this. My wife thinks I struggle with lowgrade depression, and I can't say she is wrong. There is a part of me that enjoys the sadness; the more I feel it, the more I'm drawn to it. At times I find comfort in the discomfort... these moments scare me because I tend to focus on the bad things in my life, my mind goes to dark places. Most of the time, I have enough self-awareness to know these same moments are incredibly unhealthy. Too many people I know have traveled much further down this road than I and it has never ended well. Not once.

While I still can't point to a specific recipe of events or triggers that bring on my times of sadness, I have started to recognize them as opportunities to learn and grow. Sadness isn't something I seek out or even want when my mind is clear, but if it's going to show up and spend a few nights on my couch and force me to entertain it, I'm going to find a way to make the most of it.

I've started making a mental checklist of the things I'm grateful for. I do this almost daily. Sometimes I just sit and make the list in my mind, almost like a mantra:

Food, clean water, a roof over my head, electricity, kids who love me, a wife who loves me in spite of me, a family, good friends, a car that starts, a job, hot coffee, a warm shower, blue sky, air in my lungs, a soft warm bed, and the list could go on for at least 10 more lines.

Treating this as a habit has diminished the power my sadness has over me because no matter how big it may seem, and no matter how dark my mind might get, the list of good always outweighs the bad; even when the bad seems pretty big like death, a friend's divorce, financial crisis, bodily injury, sick kids, etc. 

I would love to be rid of my unwanted companion, but it doesn't seem to be going anywhere. The one thing I do appreciate about the sadness I often feel is that I don't know that I ever would have focused on the good things in my life the way I have if I hadn't felt the need to counter the depressive thoughts that are a part of who I am.

I guess this a realist’s attempt at a glass half full.

Today, take a moment to focus on the good things in your life.