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Sri Lankan Sadness

I’m going through a whole different thing at the moment, and I think it’s related to the hate thing I wrote about the other day, but it’s moved in another direction. It’s actually sadness.

I am feeling sad.

I’m also getting sick with a cold and have been for several days actually which is why I think is one of the reasons I’ve been grumpy and irritable. My body just hasn’t felt good and that can spill over into having a poor outlook or unseasonable general demeanor for me, and I think for many people.

I noticed yesterday though, how I actually am feeling sad. I called my adopted sis Loretta in the morning because I can always depend on her to love me exactly however I am, and she helped to talk me through to the realization of my sadness. In talking with her too, I realized how much I miss singing and how I use singing to move some of these darker emotions through to the surface and out of my system. I’ve had virtually no formal exercise on this trip as well which is another way of moving things through my system

Yesterday, after a 3 ½ hour train ride from Kandy, I was waiting in the station in Colombo for another train and while walking and towing my all-too-large wheeled duffel behind me, I started singing. When I got to areas where I was alone I sang louder. I was singing a song called “Stand” which is a powerful song we used to sing in our gospel choir in San Francisco. The power of singing this in a choir is that we were all actually standing and squaring up our shoulders as we implored ourselves and others to just stand through all the difficulties that life throws at us. I don’t think I’ve ever sung this song without crying, (and often balling like a baby). Somehow it just speaks to me. So there I was walking through the station singing this song, more loudly through the areas where there weren’t so many people, and the sadness in me started to open up. It was a very non-specific sadness too, but it became obvious that sadness is in my system and wanting to be expressed, to move its way through. I say “non-specific” because I can’t exactly tell what is causing it although it certainly involves a sense of tiredness, aloneness, the poverty of the people here especially as seen from the train, some flavor of futility, self-doubt on various levels, and accumulated losses throughout my life, although I’m sure there’s much more to it than just that. So around and around I walked and sang and I noticed something very interesting – the people of this country whom I love for their ability to quickly and genuinely return a smile were now all looking sad. Maybe not fully sad in the moment, but there weren’t any eyes among those of the 100 or so people I looked at with my own sad eyes which were not reflecting their having known a deep sadness of their own, and none of them beamed back the smile to which I had been growing accustomed. What I saw was unmistakeable, very powerful, very affirming actually, and made me feel much more connected here than the more pervasive sense of disconnection I had lately been feeling.

Here’s a great video of the song “Stand” if you are curious:

Once the train arrived I moved on to my hotel just a few steps from the beach, showered, ate a little food I had picked up in the train station, listened to a different version of “Stand,” had a good cry and slept very soundly, thankful that this was moving through. You know, as I think about it, this makes me begin to wonder if hate isn’t just a form of repressed sadness, for hate was clearly up for me the day before. Sadness can be so hard for people to feel, distracting themselves right out of the possibility. Perhaps hate which is outwardly expressed is simply the valve by which our own self-hatred for our own sadness is vented. Or perhaps hate is a good and trusty way to avoid having to feel our sadness. Both possibilities feel kind of true to me.

4 replies on “Sri Lankan Sadness”

Ok, so maybe it's because I'm a girl that I see it this way but… you noticed that:

– you were angry

– you were hungry, but nothing sounded good

– you were sad

– you used the phase “cranky, grumpy, tired” which evokes pictures of you as a little boy needing soup, hug, and a nap

and yet somehow you missed that you were getting sick?! That's as statistically improbable as me being “hangry,” and it not being PMS! Some things in life really are that simple 🙂

xo – hope you are feeling better!

the wierd thing is, after the hate, the sad, then the desolate, comes the euphoria.

I felt almost suicidal this morning, but some voice just said “breathe”. Then I went to a friend's house to sing kirtan & by evening I was feeling ecstatic. Wow, all in a few hours.

Take care of yourself, Ted,
missin you, willow & the girls

Really like this one too, Ted. Your writing/voice is so crisp and honest. Thank you for trusting us enough not to embellish (or minimize)… It is intriguing to read how you learn how to navigate your inner world. I liked this part: “… although it certainly involves a sense of tiredness, aloneness, the poverty of the people here especially as seen from the train, some flavor of futility, self-doubt on various levels, and accumulated losses throughout my life, although I'm sure there's much more to it than just that.”

That sentence made me smile and think and snortle at the same time.

There's a lot I wanna say about this, actually… some time…


Hey Ted,

Over the past many months I've started to consider that anguish or longing for things to be different, better, etc., as love. Sadness too. It is getting more and more automatic, that when I feel sad or in emotional pain, I can acknowledge the love/soul that is the driving or formative force behind the emotion. I think my ordeal with my dad taught me a lot about hate/love; sadness/love, etc. For a while I thought I hated him for the ways he 'left' me (especially when he was still alive). But clearly I LOVED him like crazy.

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