melancholy milepost 167

Writer Laren Stover made a case for melancholy in Sunday’s New York Times. She exalted every excuse to be blue and extolled every morbid thought. She even imagined a world where she could retreat with her own darkness and despair.

I closed my eyes and conjured the last time my world was truly black. Hopelessly hopeless. Months and months and months of downright morbidity.

I was thirty-one and dumped by a man I wanted to marry. It was three in the morning, and I hyperventilated on my knees next to my sofa. The weight of my own grief and heartbreak pressed on my chest, a concave chasm where my heart used to be.

Minor things triggered tsunamis of tears. A glimpse of a green SUV. Travel articles on Maine. The gym. Football scores. The wispy tail of cigar smoke.

After more than six months of mourning, I still wasn’t ready to move on. Conjuring those instances, those snatches of melancholy, brought him back to me. I avoided anyone who told me I needed therapy or the latest pharmaceutical. I didn’t want sleep or numbing of pain.

Life is pointless when I can’t feel it.

I boarded the roller coaster of melancholy. I embraced the bar and paid to ride again. And again. And again.

Some of my best writing still flows from the well of despair. When we avoid life’s lows, what are we really missing? I’m not talking about clinical depression or mental illness, which can have tragic ends if left untreated. But are a few blue days really terrible? Should I pretend I’m happy when I’m sad? Or can I be both happy AND sad?

I agree with Ms. Stover. Good art requires me to be brave enough to dive into dark depths and swim to another shore. Melancholy may not be for everyone. But sometimes, it’s definitely for me.

How do you deal with melancholy?

(Find Ms. Stover’s NY Times article “The Case for Melancholy” HERE.)

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