Ever since I was a little girl, I always wanted every party to last forever. I was sad when the crowd started thinning or when my mother would send me off to bed while there was still plenty of fun to be had. I suppose it had something to do with the fact that happy times were in limited supply in my home and, when there were bright spots, I clung to them, hoping to prevent their end. Growing up with a glass-half-empty mother, I was conditioned to think about things in a bleak context. When talking about vacations, it was always, “it’ll be over before you know it.” When we discussed my wedding, she boiled it down to “it’s four hours and it will be over in a blink of an eye.” While there is some truth to what she said, it always left me clinging to whatever vestige of joy I could capture from every momentous event in my life.
Despite taking great pains to rid myself of much of this thinking, behavior runs deeper than our conscious minds can control. I have begun to notice in myself that I am anticipating the letdown of every event that I am looking forward to long before it is even close to arriving. It is as if I am gripping myself for some epic letdown that is destined to come rather than anticipating the joy and happy memories that will fill me for days, weeks, months and even years to come. I seem to have a sort of selective amnesia that prevents me from realizing that my life is rich with wonderful moments that quickly replace the ones that have passed. I’m regularly left with a hole that will be seemingly left unfilled forever. I suffer from a sort of melancholy that, while not totally disruptive to my life, forces me to consciously brace myself for the inevitable emotional letdown that comes after every high point in my life. And, while I am not thrilled about the melancholy that ultimately sets in with me, I know it is simply part of what makes me who I am. I like the way Herman Hesse looked at it. He said “suffering and disappointments and melancholy are there not to vex us or cheapen us or deprive us of our dignity but to mature and transfigure us.” Oh how true this is. The melancholy affords me the opportunity to look at events in my life and, while I may find sadness in the aftermath of the joy, I am able to soak in the experiences and try to absorb all of the richness and texture that they provide to my life. I am reflective and introspective by nature and melancholy only deepens the process for me.
I can recall so many times in my life feeling that emptiness that quietly followed really extraordinary experiences. I often sit in the calm that resides in the wake of the storms of excitement that leave me emotionally spent and deeply speculative. I try to fortify myself with the memories, the photos, the inevitable peace that comes from knowing that my life is full. It is colored and contoured by the mix of events, personalities and love that make up my fabric. Unfortunately, it takes a lot out of me to travel that journey from melancholy to satiation. I battle with myself over the process, often faulting myself for not just simply being happy and knowing that, right around the corner, another wonderful experience will appear. On the other hand, I like what singer Shawn Colvin says: “the indefinable space between happy and sad is the most moving and compelling place for an artist to be. If there’s anything I consistently strive for, it’s a melancholy limbo.” So much power comes from the melancholy. As I continue my journey towards vulnerability and open myself up to feeling my feelings and feeling safe with my emotions, melancholy is one that I truly need to embrace and accept rather than force away. I cannot deny who I am or how I process the events of my life and, I suppose my melancholy is simply part of that. It is raw and honest and pure. It is the childlike part of me that never wants the party to end mixed with the adult understanding that tomorrow will bring another. It is the deep connection to the love that comes from those around me and the fear that, all at once, it will disappear and I will never again be whole. It is the connection and energy that surrounds me that I simply never want to let go of.
Today I am melancholy because I have had abundance beyond belief and tomorrow and the next day and next week and next month there will be even more and I will continue to enjoy it all and miss it when it’s gone. Perhaps that cycle will never end and I will learn to accept it is just part of the cycle of life for me. Like sunrise and sunset and the tides moving in and out. Perhaps I will learn to use it powerfully or I will simply go with the ebb and flow and see it as yet another complexity of me.