Not everyone gets to choose, so stop saying that.

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Maybe it’s true that you can get addicted to sadness.

Maybe the feeling adds depth to a dull life.

Adds meaning. Reason.

Maybe.

I don’t know that sadness is that for me. I don’t know that I can slough it off as if it’s been put on. If I can fold it up, put it in a box, and gift it to a local clothing drive.

Maybe I can and I haven’t tried hard enough, but I just don’t know if that’s it for me.

Choose happinessYou deserve happiness. Life is too short to be unhappy.

I feel that those who tout banner sayings as if they’re helping rather than hurting–who minimize overcoming despondency to a mere act of choice…well, maybe those people haven’t experienced the depths of despair. Maybe they haven’t known the emptiness of loss, the unbearable weight of absence, and the psychological effects of trying to understand the paradox.

Perhaps, that, too, is cruel. I suppose it could be argued that those who have chosen happiness have experienced intense sadness most of their lives only to have woken up one day in a sweat, determined not to feel that way anymore.

And if that’s the case, then bravo for them. But I don’t think it’s so simple.

The problem with the slogans, typed up in fancy script and placed over a serene sunrise, a white girl, teeth and hair freshly bleached, giddily floating a gauzy scarf behind her, is that they depict sadness as a sickness–one that you can get over like the flu. Or, if it’s really bad, perhaps you can schedule a consultation with a specialist, have it cut out of you in exploratory surgery performed by a team of surgeons well-equipped for the job.

The problem is you, these insta-judgment photos tell you. You’re the one who wants to be unhappy. It’s you.

Again, I say, maybe.

But I have more good days than bad, most times. I know my triggers. I know that there’s a balance of food and water and sleep and exercise and friendship and quiet and loud and group time and family time and me time and nature time and…and…and sometimes I get the formula wrong. And sometimes I have bad days. Miserable days. Heavy, heavy days that cave my chest and hunch my back and leave me ragged, broken by days end.

But the next day the sun comes up. I brush my teeth. I comb my hair. I make breakfast and go about my day and I try to be better. I am determined to be better. And I suppose that’s a sort of choosing in itself. A choosing to not let the sadness consume me, become me, destroy me.

You can’t say this, though, when people, halfheartedly, with pseudo-good-intention, click share on a post about happiness and its ease. Some post about joy as if it’s a light switch to flip. If that doesn’t work you just need to change the bulb. They ignore the problems of wiring. Of circuitry. Of dated fuse boxes from nineteen-forty-two. Of the fact that half the wires are frayed and the other half have been chewed through by something unseen. How the room’s so far gone, electrically, that it was an accident waiting to happen. You’ll need to tear out the drywall, now, to redo the wiring, and once the wall is out you see the support beams are rotting and you have to replace those, too. And then it’s the foundation, cracked from age, too far gone.

“Just level it,” the contractor says, “it’s not worth saving.”

You can’t ever talk about dark times with others. It’s icky. It’s bad. It’s dark, dark, dark. It’s a sign that you’re unhealthy. We only want to hear about good things. Happy times. Positive news. Even though the news is 92% negative, but we aren’t supposed to talk about that either.

And maybe that’s the problem. The true problem. That sadness is real. That loss is real. That the world can feel so gorram heavy and society can be so, so cruel. That we ask people how they are, but we don’t really want to know. Nothing more than a scripted reply. Fine, how are you? Anything else means you’re crazy. A downer. Negative. A quack. A complete and total loon.

And the saddest part about sadness is that it’s so quiet the way it slips in. The way it tiptoes into your space, sneakily, expertly. A shadow of a whisper. So stealthily that you don’t notice it for days, weeks, months, until it has you and you’re lost, a shell of what you were.

Choose happiness.

What a foolish thing to say. A careless thing. A classic example of good intentions gone wrong. And even that’s forgivable, too, but it’s become so knee-jerk. A way of telling someone to close their mouth. I don’t want to hear it. Stop talking. Stop dwelling. Stop. Just stop.

Happiness has become so falsified that the real thing is hard to recognize anymore. Smiles are worn as armor, but what’s more, they’re standard. They’re drawn on like lipstick, firmly planted, expected. Smile, everyone loves to say. Why aren’t you smiling? 

It’s enough. We’ve had enough. We have to start talking about sadness. We have to acknowledge that it’s real. That it’s okay. That it’s something that is a part of us, and sometimes it’s healthy, and sometimes it’s not. That we can’t keep ignoring it  as if it’s going away.

Because it’s not going away.

It’s just not.

 

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