“Have you ever been so happy you’re sad?”
I ask this of my husband all the time and he looks at me like I have three heads. “How can you be sad if you’re happy? It doesn’t make any sense.” I know it sounds weird.
This idea that happiness and sadness are not mutually exclusive, goes something like this:
There are no immediate needs on the horizon. Laundry is done. Fridge is stocked. We have minimal planned activities, and the activities are of the pure enjoyment kind: swimming, taking a walk, eating gelato.
The website is updated. The paints are out and ready if I get so inspired. An enticing novel is dog-eared and perched on the arm of the couch if I don’t get so inspired. No mental gymnastics required. No whir of tasks left undone nagging in the back of my mind where I can’t quite pinpoint what they are but I know they’re there, whispering.
A wave of happiness washes over me. I’m excited for a day of hanging out with my family. I’m energized and eager and bright.
A pit drops in the back of my solar plexus. I’m hollow and I want to fill it with hard sourdough pretzels and caramel ice cream (cue that gelato run). There’s no obvious reason for feeling blue. To the contrary in fact. I am happy. I really am, I promise. But there it is: that gnawing behind my heart.
I’m sad because I know that this perfect space of emptiness — freedom to follow our whims and desires — won’t last. Cracks will form at the edges and little nuisances will seep in: a bloody lip as my son takes a tumble, a quick Instagram check that scrolls into an hour (don’t even pick it up, Hannah), and oh, here’s that check we forgot to sign and deposit three weeks ago that we really ought to, but finding a pen seems so….daunting.
But even though I want to keep the To Do list at bay, I’m also sad because without any pressing tasks to accomplish, I’m free to waste my day… and I’m wasting my day. Shouldn’t I be doing something proactively? I feel purposeless.
I totally get that these are at odds with one another: being sad because I don’t want things to get in the way and being sad because I ought to be doing something. And that compounds the heaviness, the need to lie horizontal with my face smashed into the mattress.
I’m happy to hang with the fam, watching my son explore his world (aka, handing me a toy, only to take it back over and over and over again), to cook dinner ensemble, and to snuggle into bed extra early to read a few more chapters.
I’d also be happy if a To Do list item popped up and I got to check it off, so long as it doesn’t take up the whole day.
The bit of melancholy makes me happy. Maybe it’s one of those things where you need the negative to illuminate the positive? So let me ask you then, “Have you ever been so happy that you’re sad?” Or is it just me?
Hannah Lowe Corman is a painter and yoga teacher in NYC inspired by nature, movement and meditation. She has a young son, and she is working on figuring out this whole new mom/entrepreneur lifestyle, which is overwhelming. Follow her on Instagram and on Facebook. Make sure to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in being considered for one of her 2018 painting commissions.
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