I realize now that the sadness has chased me all of my life. It was always there, if not completely felt: something to avoid, something fleeting but looming. A thing with a foul flavor that silently pushed me toward things that tasted better.
Like laughter, and adventure… sight, and song. Kinship. Love. Things that filled me with the warmth of life, and made me less afraid of the cold hands of sadness, which remained invisibly behind, ready to reach out on any day to lay with a chill upon my shoulders, or in the back of my mind.
And so I think perhaps it is my life-long aversion to that feeling– that sad weight of worry, or fear, or pain– that has trained me to keep my head above water; to paddle like hell with my feet and my hands and my thoughts, as long and as hard as they will possibly allow.
Because even when the cold tide is rising, inevitably, above your chin and your lips and to just under your nose, there are still wisps of breeze blowing by across the surface of the water, and in those gusts you can still catch the most gorgeous of scents, and hear the most delightful of sounds: laughter, and melodies. These fleeting sensations are still yours to be heard, and smelled, and seen and felt, even if you’re gasping for air and the water is rising and you know that despite all efforts your head will inevitably fall below the surface.
But until then, just breathe. Because you can still swim–even if it is only to save your life–and while you’re desperately treading water, the sparkling magic contained in each gasp for air bubbles with more beauty and meaning than any of the easy breaths you once drew, on bored summer days when you lay on the beach, lazy with life.
But even then, as you sat breathing easy on that sunny shore, the sadness would suddenly tap you on the back of the head, your eyes would open to its presence, and you’d realize at that moment that you had a choice: to lay there and let the cold shadow of fear fall over you once again, or to get up and move toward something warmer; something that maybe would make you smile.
And so, perhaps without realizing the power of this motion at the time, you would stand, with some effort, and step toward the water. To go for a swim. You would do this, to create a good moment– and with that, perhaps, a good day. And then, with enough of those strung together… maybe a good lifetime.
Because you always liked swimming. Swimming made you happy. And a lot of times, the water was warmer than the shadows that lingered on shore.
So perhaps I have sadness to thank for being happy. Perhaps it is the struggle that has kept me swimming… and has taught me how to keep my head above water, so that I might still catch those sweet gasps of air.
However it happened, I’m grateful for all of it. Because man, can it be nice.
And the view of the beach from out here in the water is just as beautiful as the other way around…