I was lying in bed listening to Sarah McLachlan’s 1997 album Surfacing. Famous for hits like “Building a Mystery,” “Sweet Surrender,” and the ever paralyzing “Angel,” I stumbled upon an interview she did when the album first came out and she said there is a beauty in being sad.
She said this in reference to the somber, lachrymose feel of the songs. McLachlan herself had been vocal about her own bouts with depression and self-doubt. Indeed, “Building A Mystery” alludes to one’s thoughts and process through such a journey.
As someone who battles with depression and self-doubt and has done so for most of my life, her words resonated with me in a comforting and hopeful way. A way that prompted me to ask the question: is there beauty in being sad?
I answer this question or rather attempt to answer this question by writing. Whether it is an article, a journal entry, even a note to myself, I assure myself that if I smile through it all, everything will be okay. It began to occur to me what instead of repressing my sadness, I allow it to breathe.
Unfortunately, we live in a society where we reward hiding behind masks. We reward pretending and illusions and facades. After a while, there is a price that comes with all of that pretending and elusiveness. It becomes harder to recognize oneself after a while. It becomes easy to lose oneself.
Obviously, I didn’t need a Grammy-Award winning singer to tell me I’m depressed. What was so freeing about McLachlan was her music wasn’t telling me “get over it… it’ll be okay,” rather, it was the opposite; she was saying “be sad… it’s okay…let yourself be sad.”
Referring back to her interview, she said there is a beauty in honesty and a beauty in being dark and sad. That beauty comes from allowing oneself to be sad and not feel any guilt about it. Perhaps for me that is what writing does. Writing allows me to be sad and work through my sadness at my own pace.
Some of my best work has come from a place of darkness and sadness.
As an artist or even as a human being, pain and sadness has a purpose and repressing it in fact defeats this purpose. Sadness allows you to feel. It allows you to be genuine and honest with yourself. Sadness allows you to see yourself clearly sometimes. There have been moments where I may not have cried physical tears but I certainly cried all day metaphorically, where I couldn’t even get out of bed. But through it all, I was able to see myself more clearly.
I cherish that Sarah McLachlan moment in bed. For the first time in my life, I was unashamed and found beauty in my sadness. Sadness doesn’t have to be a crutch or an obstacle in one’s way. It can transform into something fulfilling and life-changing. Sarah McLachlan transformed hers into a Grammy-award winning success that still, twenty years later, resonates today.
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