By Layla Stabile
“I don’t listen to sad songs”, I used to say. “Even if I love them, even the good ones, even if they’re related to memories from the past.” Especially if they are related to memories from the past.
I would say this with great pride: to me, this meant not being weak, not wallowing in my own misery, choosing joy and anger and whatever other feeling that would distract me from sadness. I would be impressed by my own ability of self-preservation. To me, I was saving myself. I was better than my problems, I was above them.
“Why would I do that?” I used to say. “I already feel negative feelings, why would I want to inspire new ones? Why would I want to add new suffering? Why would I want to focus on the void, if I’m desperately trying to avert my gaze from it all day?” It wouldn’t make sense, it didn’t make sense.
Whatever was coming out of my headphones needed to be loud, lively, angry, aggressive, strong, powerful…anything I wasn’t, my music would be. And, through it, for a while, I could be. “Why would I want to be sad? I don’t listen to sad songs.”
I won’t lie, I was feeling superior. For once in my life, I was stronger than others. I would roll my eyes at my friends who I knew were going through tough times and yet would listen to sad music. I would look at them puzzled, wondering how they were planning to heal and improve while willingly bringing themselves down. “Of course you can cry, of course you can vent. I do too. But don’t make it worse on purpose! Change the tune, hold back, protect yourself!”
I felt so wise. But in reality, I really did not understand.
Because what I was trying to project outside was not what I was feeling. I was living my pain in the background, pretending to ignore it, too afraid to look directly into its eyes. What could be behind those eyes? Hopelessness? Regrets? Mistakes? Sadness too deep to overcome? I wasn’t ready to know.
Until I was. Something told me that it was time to listen to that one sad song I had been proudly avoiding for months.
So I did. Once, twice, three times, once more…
It did what I expected, and broke me. I had looked into the eyes of what I was feeling, not passively resisting it, but actively living through it.
Pain avoidance had made me apparently strong, but under a veneer of arrogance lay the rawness of my feelings, rotting away almost unnoticed, like poison ivy slowly killing an oak tree.
It still didn’t make sense. How could the solution be curling up in a ball and crying? It couldn’t be. But I was feeling better, I was almost elated. I had survived what I thought was too much to even glance at. I was feeling awful but I was alive. Then, only then, I was truly indestructible. In a very, very, very delicate way.
I still don’t listen to sad songs, because whenever I do, it takes all my attention, my energy, it knocks the air out of my chest.
I still don’t listen to sad songs, because I’m still not brave, I’m still a coward.
I still don’t listen to sad songs, but I know that I can. I know that it’s not stupid and immature to make yourself sad, every once in a while. I know that moving forward does not mean to ignore the past, nor your problems. I know now that indulging in your pain is not being weak, or not strong-willed enough to pull yourself out of your misery, it’s not selfish, it’s not self-centred, it’s not immature.
I still don’t listen to sad songs, but maybe it’s just because I’m not a big fan.
I still don’t listen to sad songs, but when I do I feel alive, breathless, on fire.
Listen to your sad song.