Sadness As A Choice
I sometimes feel as if I am disappointing some of my good and caring readers by not being sad enough. Perhaps I am shallow or cold, as has been suggested. This morning, I went on my Facebook page to answer some of the weekly questions posted there, and I checked some of my e-mail, also a Sunday habit. I often get good questions about my photography, dogs and donkeys, barn cats and books. Almost every day, sometime asks me if I am sad about losing Rose. Or Izzy. Or if I miss Orson or Elvis the Steer. Today someone saw a photograph of Lenore and Red and said they were concerned, because Frieda was not in it. This is also common. If I do not put all of my dogs in every photo, some people think the missing ones must be dead. If I do not mention my dogs who have passed away, there is often concern that I do not miss them enough.
"I cry so often for Rose and Izzy," someone posted the other day. "I miss them all the time." I don't. I miss them some of the time, and I relish every second of my time with the living animals on the farm. "Simon must be so sad," someone from Michigan e-mailed me. No, I thought, Simon is not sad. He is quite content in his life as a donkey, eating sausage and ravioli as well as grass and hay, and I am not sad for him either. He is a lucky creature and I am lucky to have him.
"Are you sad about leaving Bedlam Farm?" one reader asked, "I cry all the time about it." I was surprised to see a message from someone asking me if I missed a bookstore that closed last year. Hmmmm, I thought, if I missed all of the bookstores that have closed in my life, I would not be happy too often. I sometimes think that I am not sad enough about all the things in my life that have gone and gone, changed or been lost. It does not seem productive or worthwhile to me to miss the many things that are no longer around. I'd much rather take photos of the things that are here. Like my wife, my new home, Red.
I have to be honest, and say that I do not generally look backwards in my life. Nostalgia is a trap for me, as when people are constantly talking about how good the old days were, and I tell myself I guess they weren't in England or Poland or Russia in 1940 when the good old days were in full bloom there. If nostalgia is a trap for me, then sadness is a choice.
And here is the choice.
I can miss Rose or be grateful to Red. I can miss Izzy or love Lenore. I can mourn Orson or take Frieda for a walk.
I can regret my painful divorce or celebrate my wonderful marriage.
I can look at a photograph of two happy and beautiful dogs, or I can look at the same photo and see a dead dog who isn't even dead.
I can mourn a bookstore that is closed or be happy that my local bookstore, Battenkill Books, is doing well and is such a happy presence in my life.
One day, Red will join Izzy and Rose. Battenkill will close and move into the mists of memory. So will I, and all of the things
I love. Somehow in our culture we are taught to mourn the nature of life. Thankfully this is one of many lessons I did not absorb, mostly because I wasn't paying attention. Loss and change is the nature of life, and my choice is to rediscover sadness every time life occurs. Or not. People looking for sadness will not, I hope find it here. I am sorry to disappoint. I do not hide from life, or deny it. When Izzy and Rose were ill, I shed my tears and shared the process every step of the way. When it was over, it was over. And life resumes.
Everyone has the right to be as sad as they wish about whatever they want. But you will not find much sadness here, or too many tears shed over the nature of life. When one of my dogs dies, no one will have to wonder about it. It is not that I don't feel these things, I surely do. But I hope to feel much more than that and look forward to making my life (and my blog) a celebration of what I do have in my life, not what I don't.