The 1 Unlikely Secret To Hold On To When You’re Sad

I read Micha Boyett’s words and my breathing slows. She gives perspective. And hope. And a refreshing lightness to not take what doesn t matter too seriously. She revives: When you order the tangle of your days around Him, He untangles you. She moves: The moments all matter. The daily awareness of the small add up to the whole of your life, and her words are like a dawn, stirring you to wake and walk. A grace to welcome Micha Boyett to the farm’s front porch today…

 

by Micha Boyett

I went to therapy ten years ago when I was twenty-something, newly wed, a wannabe-poet.

I was married to a kind, genuinely loving man. I studied in an exciting graduate writing program.

My days were full of friendships and meaningful ministry. And despite the ease and sweetness of my life, I was internally cold, overwhelmed, sad.

I found myself on the couch in my pajamas day after day, crying about unreturned emails. I felt weak and helpless and incapable of fixing myself.

Going to counseling is one of the bravest and wisest things I’ve ever done.

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I realized then that I had always had an assumption about therapy: It was for the Really Messed Up People.

I assumed that you went to therapy because there was nothing left to do. It was when you weren’t prayerful enough to let Bible study change you. It was for the spiritually weak.

By the time I finally went to counseling, I’d been in a dark tunnel for a long time.

So last summer, as I worked on a book about my loss and rediscovery of prayer, and unraveled the story of my faith, I struggled to make sense of the vulnerabilities and wounds from my past.

I didn’t know how to hold the depth of my own fragility. I didn’t know how to tell a true story without hurting myself in the process.

And when the old sadness came creeping in, I found a counselor immediately. Not because I was at the end of my rope, but because by now I’ve learned I no longer have to live there, at the end of my rope. 

It is a beautiful thing to seek help, to ask the faithful to teach me wholeness. 

On Monday evenings when I got in my car after I’d fed my boys dinner, knowing that my husband would be putting them to bed without me, I’d remind my easily guilt-driven mind of this: “There is no better thing I could be doing right now with my time and money than learning how to let God heal me.”

And I believe that still.

My counselor said something to me last summer about sadness. I was joking about Sad Micha and how she shows up and everything gets dramatic.

“What do you mean when you say sad?” she asked.

I had to think about that one for a while.

Maybe what I mean is that Sad Micha feels helpless. Maybe I feel my brokenness.

I can’t pull it together for my kids.

I can’t control all the things I’m supposed to control.

I can’t be responsible enough. I can’t open all my emails and actually read them and respond to them.

I can’t not cry when both of my boys are crying and I’m hysterical about how loud we must be to the downstairs neighbors.

I said, “When Sad Micha comes it’s not the sort of darkness I lived in that first year of our marriage when I was depressed. That darkness was a tunnel and I couldn’t find my way out of it. I was terrified of that tunnel because I thought it meant I’d never be happy again.

“But this sadness. It’s a knowing. It’s heavy and it settles on me. It forces me to recognize that I’m not whole yet. And the world is not whole yet. And I desperately want everything to be whole.”

My counselor shared this passage with me from a book called Practicing the Presence of People by Mike Mason:

Sadness is one of the Beatitudes: ‘Blessed [or in some translations, ‘Happy’] are those who mourn, for they will be comforted’ . . .

This suggests that sadness is very, very close to happiness . . . there is no true happiness without its wistful tint of divine sadness —

 and no sadness that does not stand on the doorstep of happiness.

I love the kindness of this idea.

I love that Jesus’ words are, Happy are the sad people. 

Maybe the sad people are the healers and the prophets. Maybe the sad people have been given a gift to see the world as it really is. And when we see the world, when we see ourselves as we actually are, we understand how desperately we need God to come and bring healing.

We don’t have to pretend anymore. We get to need God.

Only that kind of sadness can lead to happiness.

I talked to my husband Chris about that the other night. We talked about how sadness is sometimes the steep cliff that lets us fall down into the happiness.

We talked about how both of those things—the climbing of the sad cliff and the falling off the side of it—are scary.

He had just put our boys to bed.

And Chris was leaning over our son August’s bed in the darkness whispering.  He said, “August, can you believe that some day you’re going to be bigger than me when we wrestle and you’ll win? And someday I won’t be able to wrestle at all because I’ll be old and you’ll have to take care of me.”

August said, “I know, Dad.”

And Chris said, “August, what will we do when I can’t wrestle with you anymore? When I can’t tickle you and play with you on the floor?

August turned his face toward my husband’s in the dark. He said, “Don’t worry, Daddy. I’ll always remember.”

And when Chris came out of that dark room where our boys sleep, he sat on the couch and told me the story.

My husband doesn’t cry much. But he looked at me with tears in his eyes.

I hugged him and we both cried for a minute or so, till I made a joke and we wiped our eyes and laughed.

Chris said something that night about letting the sadness be real to us, letting ourselves recognize that every day we’re losing our kids and everyday they’re becoming their adult selves.

They won’t really be the same people they were when they were wild children learning the world and depending on us to show it to them.

“We should grieve that every day,” my husband said.

Because the happiness is there — in the sadness.”

 

 

Micha Boyett  her husband live in San Francisco with their two boys and she’s a mama, a writer, blogger, and sometimes poet.  

Formerly working with and serving youth,  she’s passionate about Christian practices and how they inform the contemporary life of faith. 

She recently released her first book Found: A Story of Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer.  And yes, her words are a bit like a dawning,  stirring you to wake & walk.

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