Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The Necessity of Feeling Bad Sometimes

"The dear old human experience is a singular, difficult, shadowed, brilliant experience that does not resolve into being comfortable in the world. The valley of the shadow is part of that, and you are depriving yourself if you do not experience what humankind has experienced, including doubt and sorrow. We experience pain and difficulty as failure instead of saying, I will pass through this, everyone I have ever admired has passed through this, music has come out of it, literature has come out of it. We should think of our humanity as a privilege."

--from the wondrously fine writer Marilynne Robinson, in an interview in The Paris Review, as reported in an essay by Meghan O'Rourke in a column for The Week.

And I thought I was the only one who feels I failed if I'm unhappy. Apparently, everybody and their sister feels the same way. The logic for this faulty conclusion is clear: if I'm not happy, then I've been unable to arrange things the way I want them. Which makes me feel like a schlump. But what mortal can arrange everything the way she wants?

I like Robinson's approach much better. It's a lot less arrogant. And it could be a huge relief -- if I ever entirely convince myself.

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Greta said...

Hey, Peggy, I like thinking of feeling bad sometimes as a necessity.

Given my family history and personal experiences, it sure beats thinking of feeling bad as impending depression!

Tracy said...

...interesting concept. I felt compelled to respond but upon the initial reading, I needed to leave it alone for awhile. I took a walk; that movement helped generate the idea that yes, sadness is extremely neccessary to refocus our priorities,and take inventory of our lives for sure. But I wonder if we aren't 'afraid' of it because that might mean the people in our lives aren't capable or unwilling of filling that void for us?

Peggy Payne said...

Good reframing, Greta. And I think it makes a difference in the outcome.

Tracy, I'm impressed by the thoughtfulness of your response. I never took a walk before responding; might be a good idea if I did. And what you came up with I never thought about that before. I do think I'm upset by other people's sadness because I can't do anything about it.