By: Nina Motlagh
I am grateful for my sadness whenever it visits me. I am honored to be able to feel the emotion of sadness, in the same way I am grateful when I feel happiness. I am grateful because I know what it is like to be without any and all emotions. To feel complete numbness, to wake up every morning with a fog over my head, a fog that never allowed me to see or feel or think clearly. To only want to return to sleep every morning, to sleep frequently throughout each day because the overwhelming numbness scared me to my core. If I cannot feel, then what am I? Isn't it the human experience to feel things, to have emotions? If I am numb, do I cease to be human?
The overwhelming anxiety the numbness would bring could take my breath away. When I was able to have moments of wakefulness in between my bits of sleep, I was left with the gut-wrenching, chest-tightening realization that I felt nothing. I felt like a tiny being inside an empty shell, nothing inside but the absolute emptiness that I was sinking into. I could see emotions in others, but not as often as I did before the emptiness took its residency within me; I felt like a spectator, but felt no empathy towards those I viewed. I had absolutely no appetite. I would solely consume coffee- even though I was aware that too much of it on my frequently empty stomach would trigger my anxiety. I had lost impulse control. I had lost myself.
This happened to me on more than one occasion, and I have recovered many times over. But each time I recovered, I came back as a fuller, more vibrant self. I felt every emotion in a way that I had never felt before; in a vibrant, beautifully colorful way that became more vibrant, more beautiful, and more colorful with each recovery. Today, after months of fighting the numbness away and the fresh new feeling that the Persian New Year has brought to me, I feel extreme gratitude for the emotions that visit me every day. Even sadness. The feeling of sadness has a stigma attached to it which causes many Americans to try to avoid it at all costs. We are told to only feel happiness, to only want happiness, to only celebrate happiness. But you actually cannot feel true happiness without knowing true sorrow. Without feeling and embracing sadness, you will never be able to fully welcome happiness. In Sri Lanka, sadness and grief are seen as an important part of life that each person must experience in order to continue their journey to enlightenment. They do not avoid it or ignore it. They acknowledge it, grow through it, and recognize its importance. I embrace this belief, which lead me to have an immense gratitude for all emotions, not just the obvious ones such as happiness and joy. I even began writing daily lists of gratitude in order to exercise and to grow the propensity I have for giving it out to the universe. I believe this will allow me to be rooted firmly to the present, to avoid wanting more and more all while already having so much. To be grateful for the things I have today is a wonderful feeling. It brings me peace. It brings me satisfaction. It brings me a feeling of warmth that can only be compared to the sun engulfing my entire body on a perfect spring day.
Begin practicing gratitude, and see the change it brings to your life. Start each morning by saying (out loud or in your head) what you are grateful for today. I urge all of you to at least try.