On Tuesday, I was unprepared for my voice lesson. It's not as though it's the first time this has happened, nor was my lack of preparation something that would surprise or anger my teacher, but nevertheless, I was reduced to tears. Silly, really, but also indicative of the way I've been feeling for the past few weeks.
It has been a time of bad news. And while I'm usually good at bouncing back (occupational requirement for a school counselor), I'm finding that springing back to normal has been difficult. Tears have come at seemingly random times, as well as at times that were no surprise at all. Cranky and irritable have taken up residence alongside tired and anxious.
I have no reason to wallow. If anything, I should be counting my blessings, which is what I normally do in these circumstances. And while I am grateful for the things that have remained unchanged, I have been mired in sadness, losing my equilibrium much more often than usual.
Like at my voice lesson, which, as it turns out, brought me a lesson of a different kind. As I blubbered my excuses, offering an explanation that was entirely unnecessary, I hit upon a solution. An embarrassingly obvious, "well, what took you so long to figure that out?" realization that caused, as Steven Covey would say, a paradigm shift.
As I heard myself pouring out my litany of reasons/excuses, I realized that if I had been the listener, rather than the speaker, I would respond that the speaker had had a lot to absorb in a short time, and no wonder she was sad. No wonder at all.
Or perhaps I'd have told her what I've told countless children who sit in my office, trying to manage loss - that grief is something that ebbs away slowly and in such tiny bits that you don't even notice the change until one day, you realize that you don't hurt as much as you did before.
And so it hit me - finally - that I might simply need to be sad for a while. And that it was okay if I needed to be sad for a while.
When my daughter was little, I used to read her a book called We're Going on a Bear Hunt. At each crossroads in the story, the family repeated the same refrain: "You can't go over it. You can't go under it. You have to go through it!"
As multitasking, crazy busy people, we have a tendency to want to find shortcuts - to crave them with such impatience that allowing ourselves to go through something difficult seems like punishment for the most heinous of crimes. And so I pummeled the walls of the tunnel of sadness, demanding that it release me. Instead, it beckoned me in deeper.
Sadness is a tunnel we just have to go through sometimes. It doesn't mean we're weak. It doesn't mean we're depressed. What it means is that we are human.
Oddly enough, simply giving myself permission to feel sad put the proverbial light at the end of my tunnel. The sadness isn't completely gone, but it has eased. Like a persistent child who finally gets his mother's attention, it simply wanted recognition. The more I tried to ignore it, distract it or send it away, the more it dug in its heels, insisting that I acknowledge it.
Not all of the solutions have presented themselves, but that's okay. Perhaps they are on the other side of the tunnel.