You know how Melancholy comes to visit? She quietly slips under the door, and floats along from room to room until she finds you. Then she follows you, sitting in your lap, accompanying you on walks, being painfully present.
Melancholy is a species of sadness that arises when we are open to the fact that life is inherently difficult and that suffering and disappointment are core parts of universal experience. It’s not a disorder that needs to be cured. Modern society tends to emphasise buoyancy and cheerfulness. But we have to admit that reality is for the most part about grief and loss. The good life is not one immune to sadness, but one in which suffering contributes to our development. Sometimes you feel sad and you can’t quite put your finger on why. It’s not one acute sorrow that’s eating you. You feel in a way the whole of life calls for tears.
When I first read the line ‘reality is for the most part about grief and loss’ I thought ‘No, it’s not!’ But as this idea has settled into my psyche, I realise my strong reaction to the contrary was an indication of how right it is. We are funny creatures that way, often declaring adversely, those things which are most true.
Why is it, then, that my visitor comes, uninvited, and often, but is not thrown to the curb? Because I am a Light Chaser, and even I know, there is no light without darkness.
We find beauty not in the thing itself but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another creates… Were it not for shadows, there would be no beauty. –In Praise of Shadows, 1933, Junichiro Tanizaki (via Brainpickings Newsletter)
Melancholy came three weeks ago today, searching the shadows of death to illuminate for me what the life had meant to mine. The Now Departed was someone who had been very influential in my life during my teens and twenties. The truth is, we had grown apart in recent years but both of us honoured our past relationship with fondness, gratitude and loyalty. Right in the middle of my huge clearing out of possessions, she passed, creating yet another, necessary adjustment to my surrounding energies. It has been a lot to mull over.
Her influence is everywhere. As I sorted through cupboards and collections, recipes and photos, scarves and books; shadows and highlights merged. They are the fabric of my life, interwoven and unique; containing my first trip outside the USA to Mexico, my first trip to Italy–connecting me with my Italian heritage, my first train ride, tasting my first raw mushroom! How can you forget eating your first raw mushroom?
Melancholy is a key mental state and a valuable one, because it links pain with beauty and wisdom.
So, I have been reflective, sad, grateful…and now, I see…all of that is part of the connection Melancholy provides to other parts of ourselves. I commend to you an article in its entirety on this topic, and hope it may help you, as it did me, understand this part of life a little better. It is comforting to know these feelings are normal, and even desirable, to move us forward and connect us with better understanding. Not to mention beauty.