Often times, when we are faced with pain, we don’t realize what a priceless opportunity we have in front of us.
Happiness is what we strive for, the emotion of which we wish to constantly embody. But, if happiness is all we were to ever know, how do we know that we are happy? How do we know what times to cherish and hold dear? Where would be the peak of our existence?
I found myself thinking of Hamilton’s poem this weekend. And I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was the smell, one that I had not encountered since being in England. It was all too familiar, both comforting and crushing at the same time. As I sat in a bath, the wind outside rushing past all of the palm trees bowing towards the window, I was reminded of the home I may never frequent again. The bathroom, with it’s little island treasures somehow smelt just like my mother-in-law’s guest bathroom. It’s a distinct smell, evoking intense memories.
And as I soaked, thinking of my husband, I almost felt a need to thank him. Not for hurting me, but for giving me the opportunity to grow. It’s that feeling of being thrown in the deep end. You either sink and drown or you hold your breath and learn how to swim to the ledge. You don’t get lessons or a life saver or even time to think. You just have to believe in yourself and do it. Happiness doesn’t teach you that, only sorrow does.
Sorrow gives us the permission to dig deep, to explore those spots we never settle into for we are too busy enjoying life, content and blissfully unaware of what grief could come hurdling toward us. Lately it’s felt like a meteor shower, just endless masses of matter flying at me from all sides.
But I guess that all can be a blessing. That every punch hardens the muscle, and paradoxically, softens the heart. That when we lose happiness, it awakens that sense of self-awareness, of our ability to wade through the change and come out the other side either bitter or better. And I don’t want to be bitter. Not the best taste. I want to be better.
I wish he and I could have grown through our sorrow together, to push past the woes and perhaps be reminded of what happiness felt like after two years of medical anxiety and impatience. However, that’s not the world in front of me. So, while sitting in the bath, I embraced Hamilton’s words. It had been one month since I had last seen my husband. As much as I hate the grief, it has been teaching me an awful lot. Strangely, going through Topical Steroid Withdrawal isn’t the sorrow I feel Hamilton is describing. I was being strengthened, but I had my husband which somehow made the journey less frightening. But now, I can humbly understand what Hamilton means. Instead of my husband walking beside me, it is Sorrow, and she is so quiet. She doesn’t say a word. But her imprint is loud. She forces you, demands of you to either give up and tear yourself apart from the inside out, or to rebuild yourself into something worthwhile. She gives you a reason to fiddle with your inner being, to tinker with your ideas of what your life is supposed to be.
And that’s why I feel like I can thank my husband. He has given me more than just Sorrow. He’s given me the rites that come along with walking a mile with her. But, it is up to me what I take away from our partnership — the same way it’s up to you.
This weekend, the Florida Keys and its sea salt air swallowed me in sanctuary. I had room to breath away from the realities of our belongings scattered about my room, our paperwork and pictures. And though he was still on my mind, I had these moments of freedom to just be.
I urge you to do the same if you are battling with your surroundings. And I urge you to remember what Sorrow can teach you. The circumstances may be wretched, but we have much to learn in these times. We can reinvent ourselves, chisel a new layer of who we wish to be. Allow sorrow to mold you into a better version of who you see in the mirror everyday. It doesn’t mean you are supposed to change completely or drastically. It just means you can now, without reservation, explore the endless possibilities that are yourself.
Happiness is about basking in the glorious joy you find inside your soul. Sorrow is about transforming into the self you allow to replenish all of that glorious joy.
B. R. Wren