Do I Want to be Sad? Just Not Too Often

I love book lists.  And as someone quipped the other day, in the presence of such lists, I really need a 12-step program. Yes, at the mere thought of books, my cravings get the better of me. Usually.

Today I came across “12 Books Guaranteed to Make You Cry.” Oh dear. No.

But, addict that I am, I couldn’t not look. (I bet you can’t either!) I didn’t make it to the bottom of the list. Not because I couldn’t, but because I didn’t want to. I don’t wallow in my miseries. Actually, I can’t.

And there’s a very good reason why this is so.

Once upon a time, in a far away place, I woke one dark tropical night in agony. Pain ricocheted through my abdomen, cramping pains clutching every muscle it seemed, far worse than the contractions of childbirth. And that, believe me, took me to the mat and threatened to kill me in a choke hold. I fled my bed, crawling across the cool tile floor to the bathroom, for I couldn’t stand. I grabbed the toilet bowl to hoist myself up, sweat pouring off my forehead, dripping into my eyes. I knew I was dying. My husband heard my quiet whimpering, carried me to the car, and raced to the hospital nearby.

A Yale-trained surgeon diagnosed appendicitis and operated.

End of story? No.

Something ripped into my soul when I lay on that cool tile floor and thought of dying in such torment. I healed well enough from the physical wounds. But the wounds to my sense of trust in my body showed no signs of mending.

Melancholy, I knew you well in those days. It was as if a giant vulture wrapped its stinking black wings around me and held on, claws and curved beak digging into my skin, sucking my life force away, foul breath against my cheek.

I wallowed in my misery, boxing myself off, living as if I’d climbed into a coffin

Somehow, Time, that divine healer, breathed the life back into me, easing me into a future I thought I’d lost. One day, I saw the sun again, really saw it, and the swaying palms and the red-flowered flame trees, too. Since that time, I’ve spent many other days with Melancholy trying to sneak away with my soul.

That’s why I try hard not to immerse myself in sad, lugubrious books and stories. Writing can be cathartic, and so can reading. I understand that. Sometimes reading about someone else’s trials and tribulations evokes a certain relief, “I’m so glad I’m not him/her/them.”

But …

Life is challenging, hard. Dwelling on suffering and negative emotions leaves no room in the day for gratitude and joy.

I ought to make a list of books that remind me of that.

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