When sadness has no name

There are days when you wake up to insurmountable sadness. It is not a new emotion, but there are times when it is shapeless, nameless, uncalled for. And, as with all things that are unknown, it becomes daunting.

This is not to say that there are no reasons to be sad. Certainly, in this day and age, there are plenty. First of all, there’s a pandemic looming over, probably the perfect backdrop to its steady presence. The pandemic has destroyed the rhythm of day-to-day and has left us in an unsteady state of limbo. While there have been stories in which humanity has revealed its best, there are still those in which humanity has chosen to be the worst. You’d think a pandemic would make health more accessible or people more agreeable, yet instead it only opened up already existing cracks in an already fragile system, with leaders who handle it both incompetently and selfishly. Then you see how, after years of struggle against oppression, the innocent are still killed, the police remain to be bullies, and the powerful look away without as much as batting an eyelash. You would think after years of advancement and progress, we’d probably find a way to get along. Then, there’s the internal gnawing of our own struggles, of how somehow, even with time and resources at our disposal, we never seem to feel enough; how every day still leads us to question our existence and purpose; how, even when we find gasps of joy every now and then, there always seems to be something missing. It is also the loneliness, as if no one else can understand or no one else would ever care, and you’re left to settle your demons by yourself. And on top of it all is the helplessness and hopelessness, of how overwhelming it feels and how paralyzed it leaves us. This is probably the part I hate the most.

This tirade could go on and on, and I have certainly yet to exhaust all sources of sadness in this world. That is perhaps a topic for another time. But even if I had exhausted all its causes and all its forms, accurately defining it still escapes me. It is both the whole picture combined and the total of sums. It is both each element and all of them put together. It is external as it is internal, an interplay of both the madness of a world gone wild and the unsettling thoughts that haunt us regularly.

I wish there was a name for this kind of sadness. Of all the synonyms in the thesaurus, not one of them truly captures it. It’s a Goldilocks ‘just right’ kind of sadness. It’s not mild discomfort nor an inconvenient annoyance. It is not an overarching anger nor inescapable pain. It’s not grief or melancholy or sorrow or misery or despondency. It simply is sadness, and yet even that name incompletely captures it.

Thankfully, this sadness is forgiving. It allows me to go about my routine and to somehow contribute to society. It even allows me to laugh and smile, ignoring it as if it were not there. It allows me to go about my day, only making itself known at opportune times – upon waking up, before going to sleep, or while in the shower when the deepest thoughts and sorrows spring forth. It presents itself when I think of it, when I search for it, and you would think the obvious solution would be to look away, to forget about it like a lost, destructive lover. Yet we know that sadness, as with most emotions in the world, cannot be ignored forever, and it is also naive to think that it will ever go away. It will present itself, sometimes like this, when it is unknown and unfamiliar; or perhaps sometimes in ways when we can give it a name, and even that is a triumph in itself.

Today, sadness has no other name for me, and perhaps I will let it be. Maybe just knowing that it’s there, that I can respond to it however I may deem appropriate, that I can face it or ignore it or even offer it some coffee, maybe that will have to do for now.

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