How Do I Make My Sadness Go Away? — RUBY ANSWERS

Dear Ruby,

I have been having trouble with a lot of bad days this week. How can I turn them around?

Lost

Dear Lost,

In answering your question, I want to tell you about The Rules. The Rules (capital T, capital R), are a set of limits and expectations that the world has created as a reaction to human emotion. Let me explain. The Rules say that while both a bad haircut and the death of a family member should cause you to experience sadness, a bad haircut should cause you to experience it far less intensely and for a much shorter amount of time than the death of a family member. They try to set an “acceptable” amount of time for feeling sad about a haircut, or a breakup, or a death in the family, which is helpful. Sometimes. But if your sadness doesn’t sit comfortably within the bounds set by The Rules, it can feel like something is wrong with you.

One time, I went through an incredibly challenging breakup. I’m talking heart-wrenching, happy-ending-ending, loud-claps-of thunder-followed-by-a-downpour-of-rain type breakup. And several months later, I found myself incredibly frustrated that I hadn’t “gotten over it” yet. “It’s been seven months, so why aren’t you better yet? What’s wrong with you? Why are you so hung up on a boy who wasn’t even good for you?” My impatience with my own ability to heal had actually begun limiting my ability to heal, and I found myself in a twisty, dark cavern of drippy self-loathing and brackish frustration.

The Rules had made me feel like my sadness was fallacious and illegitimate, that it was time for me to move on, to not be sad anymore. But oh, dearest Lost, how ineffective it was to invalidate my feelings. Because yes, it was a terrible relationship and yes, that boy didn’t treat me well and yes, I would have probably been miserable had it ended in a white dress and wedding cake. But none of that mattered, because I was sad, plain and simple. No logical reasoning, or justification, or talking-myself-out-of-it was going to change my plain and simple sadness. I missed that boy, and I loved him, and I was sad.

I share this with you because I think my answer to your question, “How can I turn my bad days around?” is perhaps: maybe, sometimes, you can’t. And maybe, sometimes, that’s okay. It wasn’t until I told myself, “Ruby, it’s okay that you’re sad,” that I started feeling better. Certainly, there are things you can do to help push yourself away from sadness. Keeping busy, going for a walk, sitting in the sunshine, and listening to a real good song are all helpful for me. But, looking back to my darkest weeks, I certainly wish someone had just simply given me permission to be sad.

So, dear one, this is me giving you permission to be sad. Don’t run away from it, don’t hide. The Rules want you to be happy all the time. They teach you that when you’re sad, something must be wrong and that happiness is some kind of celestial standard. But do you know who is often sad? God. He’s so sad that sometimes, He weeps. He cries and cries for us, and I like thinking about a God who weeps, because I think it means sadness can be divine. And I hope, Lost, that in your sadness, you eventually don’t feel lost anymore, but found.

Yours,

Ruby

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Are you searching for an answer to a particularly difficult, embarrassing, or confusing question? Perhaps you're unsure about a tumultuous relationship in your life or feel overwhelmed by concerns you have about God, friends, family, or even yourself. Maybe you're feeling hopelessly lost, or, gratefully found. Ruby wants to hear from you! Submit your anonymous questions and letters in the 'Ask Ruby' box, located on the right side of the page, and read previous Q&As by clicking on the Ruby Answers tab.

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