The other day I heard a piece on the radio about melancholy; how melancholy can be as prevalent during the holidays as holiday cheer. The reflection included the sage suggestion to give honor to those people or things associated with the melancholy, but then give way to and give thanks for the present and future.
As I reflected on this on my run that day, I pondered a pair of points:
1.) God gave us melancholy, along with all other emotions. These are not wrong. He also instructed us to maintain moderation in all things. I believe to allow any one emotion or state of mind to dominate our being to where it interferes with our ability to honor Him and His will for us, turns into coveting.
To be melancholic is to pine away for something that is not, was not, will not be or cannot be. It is the sadness that accompanies wishful thinking, or lusting after the imagination of what was not intended to be so. This, I perceive to be covetousness. To covet is to break a Commandment. Therefore, we must be circumspect as to how we give time and energy to our emotions.
2.) Last week while leading a group therapy session, I pointed to different expressions of emotion and asked the children if each one was “good” or “bad.” Instinctively, most of them ascribed “bad” to feelings such as anger, sadness, fear, anxiety and grief. “Good” emotions included happy, joyful, excited, surprised, loved and calm. As you, dear reader, already surmise, the point of the group content that day was to teach the children that ALL emotions have worth and place in our lives, all emotions are okay, all of them are GOOD. It’s what you do with them that matters.
That being said, we often tease that we can tell when a child is ready to leave our hospital when the little Butterball thermometer pops out of their side and they’re “done.” The thing that pops out for me, as their therapist, is how well they’re able to COMPARTMENTALIZE their emotions, how they organize their emotions, both in their heads and in their actions.
Can anger or sadness, grief or melancholy be tolerated and even embraced as a legitimate source of forward movement in the natural process of growth and change? (remember, I’m working with little ones who have no families, or who have families who’ve rejected them or chosen drugs over them, or with families who will never have the capacity to love).
Can you find room in your heart to allow the natural discomfort of difficult emotions, and find a way to organize them into your psyche, give them their place use them as a springboard to move forward?
Can you find gratitude for the way things must be? I ought to change the title of this to “finding the silver linings,” but I may have already used a similar title, I believe. Silver linings are just my nature, and I have a soft spot in my heart for those whose nature gravitates toward having to monitor their melancholy.
It’s all good, baby!
I was tremendously grateful for this snippet about melancholy, since it pertains to us all in various ways, but in much greater proportions we often overlook. And it’s true for all emotions. To spend too much time in positive emotions, we’d neglect our duty to feel sorrow for those without or to feel guilt for our transgressions. Negative emotions propel us to betterment, both in ourselves and in loving our neighbors.
There is a time for ashes and sackcloth, and there is a time to move on. To remain stuck is to become stagnant (refresh thy iPod regularly!). To move on is to discover the future.
Yes, I embrace the melancholy, and even relish it for a moment, here and there, even moreso when something occurs to me down the road that I neglected to realize…but I am moved by the current down the rapids, which does not allow me to wallow and wade in the waters of what was or wasn’t. I am moved forward with wonder into the excitement of His will.
May we all be.