on Joy and Sorrow

Posted on December 5, 2013


I am sometimes filled with so much sadness when I think of DK and the losses I associate with having known him. And yet, the sorrow seems buffered now, as if wrapped in cotton wool. I know that is my psyche protecting me but I’m not sure it’s the best method of defense.

There were many months in my life, twenty or so years ago, when the only time I wasn’t crying was when I was asleep. I never knew, until then, a body could produce so many tears without cease. When I woke in the morning, I didn’t abruptly start crying. My tear ducts simply started to leak until, by the end of the day, I had cried tributaries, mapping my sorrow on my face. I’m surprised valleys are not permanently burrowed down my cheeks.

It was a very unhappy time in my life.

Eventually I healed enough so that my tears, abundant still, only came when required and necessary. After my beloved dog, Aslan, died, I wept every morning for months. And that was as it should be.

Now I seem to be at the other end of the spectrum. I am as dry as one of Aslan’s old bones that still keep turning up in the backyard, years after he has gone. I can’t remember the last time I cried. In the summer, I had a mini-cry, but it was not the end of the drought as I had hoped it would be.

How odd to say now that I dearly wish I could cry.

But crying can be cathartic. Cleansing.

I worry sometimes it means I’m drying up inside; that part of my heart has atrophied. But I know that isn’t so; if it were, I would feel no sadness. I would feel nothing.

Sometimes, when certain thoughts or memories cross my mind, a hot lump forms in my throat, the promise of a  volcano of tears behind it. But I’ve become so adept at pushing it down – no, shoving it – that I’ve forgotten how to just let it go.

One of my favorite passages from one of my best-loved books, The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, is on Joy and Sorrow. I read it again last night, when my mind would not shut down and let me sleep. Always, it soothes me.


Then a woman said, “Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.”

And he answered: 

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.

And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.

And how else can it be?

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?

And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?

When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. 

Some of you say, “Joy is greater thar sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”

But I say unto you, they are inseparable. 

Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed. 

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.

Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.

When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

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Posted in: 2013, mind, quotes