empathy

The Wall(fl)ower – A Love Letter to Sorrow

Image by  Michael Leonard

Image by Michael Leonard

I was seventeen years old the first time I told someone I loved them. We were sitting next to each other on her aunt’s couch listening to music. She smiled and said it back softly, then kissed me on the cheek and held my hand. Two years later, she left me standing on my porch by myself and drove back to her old life. I spoke to her a handful of times over the next year, and then we lost touch. She’s married now and has a baby boy.

It was over seven years before I told another person I loved them.

My track record with telling people I love them isn’t the greatest. Its only happened a few times, but it always ends in some kind of Michael Bay-esque explosion, of which the aftermath is a bunch of sad, orphaned children sitting in the dirt after searching for their parents and learning they died, and the children must now fend for themselves. Not really, of course, but that’s what I imagine it feels like. I feel awful for a while, like anyone else, but when the time comes to move out of the awfulness and into a new beginning, (time estimation based on my friends and family’s experiences) I can’t make myself make that push. I know I’m not the only one, as with social media and people’s increasing comfort with sharing grossly personal things for everyone to see, I find my friends in similar situations. The question, though, is-why?

When you share time with someone, whether it’s close or long distance, that person becomes a part of you. They sneak their way into your daily routine. You start thinking of them first. When something good happens, they’re the first person you want to tell. Same with the bad. You think of them when you hear funny jokes, and hear their laugh in your head when you imagine how repeating it to them will go. You buy two coffees instead of one. You pick up something from the store that you normally wouldn’t get because they told you it’s their favorite. But then, one day, they aren’t there anymore, and you find yourself with a very persistant hole in your life. Something good happens, and then you remember that they aren’t there for you to tell, so you’re left hanging in the balance, scrambling in your own mind to cover up the mistake before it starts an avalanche on the rest of your day. But the damage is already done.

Sorrow, for people that embrace it, isn’t something that those who don’t can understand. It comes from a long life of struggle. Growing up poor, or with strict parents that won’t let your express yourself, or being passed around the Foster Care system. It comes from tearing someone out of your chest. It’s a fallback that no one can take away from you. Everyone always wants to share in a happy moment, but those numbers decrease drastically when it becomes a sad moment. The number of people that will actually be there for you when you’re feeling like absolute shit at three in the morning are much smaller than you think, and after so many times of reaching out to no response, you learn to be your own best friend. In that moment, giving into the gray undertones, slipping into your bed and curling up under the blankets, is a feeling that’s almost as euphoric as a drug-induced high.

I read a forum post once where a user says, “Sorrow takes very little effort. It requires no money, as a matter of fact no money often leads to sorrow. But sorrow, is real. Sadness requires only it’s aknowledgement. Happiness on the other hand. Happiness takes work. It doesnt always need money, but more money can lead one towards happiness.” And I don’t think there’s a better way to summarize it. As always the nuances are vastly more complicated than a simple summary, but it’s a good start. It’s infinitely easier to go to sleep and ignore the things you have to do than it is to force yourself to get up, get dressed and go out and do them. Some people call this the ‘sleep solution.’ You don’t have to think about anything while you’re asleep, which makes it a great escape. There’s only one problem with this method:

Emotional exhaustion is immune to the ‘sleep solution.’

It’s really a catch-22. People like me, the wallflowers, the lovesick and the lost, we find comfort in a situation that we know, somewhere deep down, will never actually help us feel better. But the worst part is, we don’t care, because we don’t want to feel better. When you feel better, you have something to lose. When you reach out and connect with someone, when you put extra effort into an assignment or get your hopes up for an upcoming event, you have the potential to lose. The connection between you and that person dissipates. You did all that extra work and still got a C. The event gets canceled or your friends back out at the last minute. Some people will say that risk taking is a part of life and what makes us move forward, and they’re absolutely right, but to someone like me, and maybe even someone like you, the risk isn’t worth the reward. So in the end, we tell our friends that we can’t hang out, curl up in our beds, turn the music on and go to sleep, even though we know it’s all going to still be there when we wake up.

You can remove the pictures from your camera. You can untag yourself from their pictures on social media. You can unfriend them, delete their contact info and tell your friends and family to please not ask about them, but you can’t dig that seed out of the pit of your stomach. Their smile will be burned into your eyes the same way their laugh will ring through your chest. You can try your hardest to forget, but something will always trigger a memory, and usually when you’re not expecting-or prepared-for it. Your favorite things will be ruined after hearing them again paints the picture of lying together and sharing all the things that make us who we are. You’ll find yourself awake at night, staring blankly into ceiling even though you have to be up at six AM. And it won’t change.

Sorrow will always be there for you. Our love-hate relationship with it may wax and wane, but no matter what, it will always be there. In the comfort of your bed, the cold and overcast days, the sad songs that tie knots in your stomach. In the keepsakes from your failed happily ever after. The books you both loved and the letters you sent, complete with a squirt of perfume and a lipstick kiss. We may take medicine or start running to curb the effects during the daytime. We may talk to someone professionally or even make friends with each other in online communities. But at the end of the day, an addiction is an addiction, and whether or not you get help, the satisfaction of having something that’s yours and yours alone, that warmth is waiting for you.

And it will welcome you back every time.

Submitted to ArtParasites by Roy Miller