Sunday, March 4, 2012

Protecting Yourself From Sadness

8 years ago today my mom died. And 8 years ago I started feeling sorry for myself.

Even though I don't necessarily think it is natural for my personality, I kind of started seeing myself as some sort of victim. In class when we would be reading some book where a kid's parent dies, I always thought everyone was looking at me, or in church when we would talk about eternal families, I was sure that the teacher was sending side-long glances at me as if to silently tell me, "You know this lesson is for you, right?"

I've never liked being a victim; in fact, I don't even really like it when people hold the door open for me. I like to do things myself, I don't like to feel pitied and I don't like to feel like I am being looked down on. But for some reason, ever since I became this little half-orphan, I kind of expected it.

When I was going to Prom the first time I remembered thinking that people probably felt sorry for me that I didn't have a doting mother to help me find a dress or do my hair or take a thousand pictures that I would pretend to be embarrassed about but secretly adore.

Or when I went away to a different country for 4 months and I didn't have anyone to tell me how much they missed me and wanted me back home, I started to feel sorry for myself. Started telling myself that even though everyone didn't know my situation, they would pity me if they did.

And then I started being proud of my unfortunate self. "Look at me, I'm adopted and I planned my own wedding without a mom." "Yeah, I'm the only one in my family with brown eyes, but I still got into college." "Aren't you impressed that I didn't breastfeed and yet I'm still a fully-functioning adult?"

As embarrassed as I am to say this, it really wasn't until tonight that I realized what a complete idiot I've been.

A year ago I read the book Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Buy it. You'll love it. And I did love it. But I think I had so much on my mind a year ago that I couldn't really give the book my full attention, although I did remember the quote that says, "you cannot protect yourself from sadness, without protecting yourself from happiness."

If you haven't seen the movie/read the book, I'll give you a little teaser and just tell you it's about a kid who lost his dad on 9/11 and goes all over New York looking for clues from him and during the process, he meets all different people and learns about so many different lives.

Tonight, as we were watching the movie, I finally realized why my mom died. It's not so that I could prove to myself and everyone around me that I could grow up without a mom, it's not so that my dad can hit golfballs alone in the garage, it's not so that my little sister could grow up largely ignored and my older sister could have three beautiful children without a mom to brag about them for her.

It's just because that's life.

Life is good and bad! Being sad didn't make me unique, in fact it's the opposite--feeling sadness is the deepest connection we have with each other. There are happy times and there are sad times because without the sad we can't have the happy. Just like on a swing, you can't have your very best time at the peak of your swing without being at the very bottom. The good and the bad is what makes us human! It's what we all share with each other! The fact that we can let people both in our lives and out of it is the absolute best part of life!

I left the dinky old dollar theater absolutely in love with all of humanity and feeling so in tune with the human experience. Even though I didn't lose anyone in 9/11, I still feel a huge loss and deeply connected to those people. Just like my heart breaks when I see homeless people coughing at a bus stop, or an old person alone at a restaurant.

I love being sad because I love being happy! Each day is a miracle and each person in this world is miraculous!

The main criticism that Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close the movie got was that it was overly sentimental and a melodrama. As is this post.


Emma said...

I love melodramas! And I love you too. Thanks for being here through the good and the bad, it makes everything better.

Alison Arntsen said...

ahhh you're the best. you have a gift for being incredibly insightful and expressing it beautifully.

that sounded sooo corny but seriously. i've always admired you for it.

kiss kiss

Ann said...

Awesome! What a fabulous writer you are.

I always say this about life. It just is. There's a lot of randomness involved, but I try to look at the stuff tossed my way and say, "Okay. What can I learn from this?"

Or sometimes I just go to 7-11 instead and buy myself another Dr. Pepper. But whatever.

Love you, Alex. I'm so proud of you.

Jordyn said...

This is so awesome. It basically made me dizzy with its goodness.

Especially the part about sadness being the biggest connection we all have with each other. I LOVE THAT. I'm adding it to the list of creeds we made ages ago down in Dev 5.

Also, I am SO HAPPY we have been officially reunited by work!! You don't even know how psyched I am about it!

Jon said...

so good

mel said...

this was great. and yeah maybe i'm being a stalker right now. but thanks. because this is exactly what i needed to read today.

glad i stumbled here.

Amy said...

Alex, I feel like we have a similar outlook on life at times. Thanks for sharing that insight with me. I have discovered something about myself because of it. You are so amazing!!!! Keep on keeping on :)

Abigale said...

I should never read your blog during class! I always want to cry or laugh out loud!

I loved it. Now I need to read or watch the movie... :)

Jolie said...

Thanks for sharing this, Alex, you're the best writer and a wonderful person. Love you! Jolie

Janet said...

Okay, I have tears streaming down my face and thinking of you and how I've always thought that you have always marched to the beat of a different drummer, one I've wanted to follow along after to see what you would do next. It's amazing to have known you since you were teeny and see where you are going and the things you are choosing. Amazing!

WHITE OWL Sydna said...

Your mother believed in you and if she is watching, which I think she is, she is proud of the self assured daughter she raised. All motherless children hurt because they don't have everything they need to see the world as a safe secure place. When we grow up hopefully the other people in our lives give us what they can to make up for it. Best of Everything.