We all experience sadness in some form or other. Like watching a sad movie or perhaps not getting a promotion at work when you know you deserve it.I call this kind of sadness ‘fleeting sadness’, a kind of sorrow that you get over quickly. Its easily distractible, you forget about it as soon as your attention is pulled elsewhere. You may be pissed off for a few days, but at some point you say, well that’s the way the cookie crumbles and you simply move on.
That is not the sadness I am referring to.
There is another kind of sadness. A sadness that, no matter what, never leaves you. A traumatic event that touches your very core and makes you know that when you look in the mirror, you will never really be the same again.
They are events that lead you to a realisation about your future. And it is truly terrifying because we are not meant to know absolute truths about what the future holds. For example, if a person close to you dies, you know that you will never see that person on this green earth ever again. From the point that person passes away and for the rest of your days, you know that your life is going to be lead without that person. That is a piece of your future. Or the love of your life tells you they don’t love you anymore and walks away. Or if you find out that despite all advances in medicine, it will be impossible to have children: all of a sudden you know that you will never cradle your own child and that is your future. Another example can be if you have a serious illness like cancer. In the case of cancer, you may heal but you have still gone through that terrifying experience and from there on out, you will always be a person who had cancer. You can never say ‘this is something that did not happen’ because it did happen. Or if you or a loved one has a debilitating illness like Huntington’s chorea or multiple sclerosis or ALS: a future that you never hoped or dreamed for becomes apparent.
Once any of these things happen and other things too, you can no longer say ‘Who knows what the future holds?’ because you kind of do know. At least about some rather key aspects.
And you learn to move on and function and take joy where it comes. And in life, there is a lot of beauty and a lot of joy.
But through the beauty and the joy, there is the niggling thought at the back of your mind: there is a lot of joy in the world- but it isn’t MY joy. MY joy would be to have the person I miss back in my life/ to be told it is all a mistake and that is not my diagnosis/ to see that double line on a pregnancy test.
And more often than not, there is nothing you can do about it. You cannot bring someone back from the dead and you cannot make somebody love you.
And I believe that everyone has some kind of sadness that will never go away. We carry it deep inside everywhere we go. We do our best to not think about it all the time, but it is undeniably there. The challenge is then to figure out how we are to survive knowing that something is never going to happen for us. Especially if this realisation comes at a young age.
And you keep on keeping on. And you figure out ways of giving your life meaning because deep inside of you is the knowledge that the future you had hoped for is not to be.
In a way, in hopelessness there is a kind of peace. When you know something is never going to happen, in a weird way you have no choice but to accept it and you stop striving for it. I’ll never forget when I actually experienced this. It was my final nursing exam which was about 5 hours long and it was not going well and towards the end, in the last forty-five minutes, I looked at my examiners and I just knew I did not have a snowball’s hope in hell of passing. I saw it in their eyes. And a kind of sense of euphoria washed over me and a feeling of peaceful resignation. There was nothing I could have done. There was a definite re-sit in my future. And that was that.
It was not until later that I realised the real implications and the impact this resit had on my future: it meant I would join the workforce much later than my peers, giving me less seniority when it came to deciding who would be head of shift. It also meant that when it came to pick which ward I wanted to work in, I would get the scraps left over by those who had passed and were able to choose first. And that was my future and it did affect the rest of my career.
But that being said, at least there was a sense of certainty. I did not have to worry about what was going to happen, because I knew exactly what was going to happen. And even though all hope was quashed, at least I knew. And I could react accordingly.
This experience is a sadness that I carry. One of them. To be honest, I do not think much about it anymore. But it is undeniable there. And it changed my future.
So really, it truly is such a paradox. Not knowing your future allows you to hope and dream and believe. Knowing your future does not allow hope to have any wiggle room which causes sadness. But at the same time, knowing something may or may not happen in one’s future can provide peace.
So what is better? To dream and hope of better days or to know that they are not to come and live with acceptance?
I do not know.