A bridge with people

This bridge on Captiva Island, Florida, led through lush green paths to the sea. January, 2013

This bridge in Captiva, Florida, led through lush green paths to the sea. January, 2013

“When I stopped trying to block my sadness and let it move me instead, it led me to a bridge with people on the other side. Every one of them knew sorrow. Some of them even knew how to bear it as an ordinary feature of being human instead of some avoidable curse. Watching them ride the waves of their own dark emotions, I learned that sadness does not sink a person; it is the energy a person spends trying to avoid sadness that does that.”Barbara Brown Taylor

There’s a lot of pressure in our culture to be fit, healthy, educated, happy, perfect. All these states of being are blessings (except for perfection, which is an unattainable illusion) but I think we fall into a trap when we imagine we can achieve consistency in any of them. Health can disappear abruptly no matter how fit we stay, and education is in a continual process of becoming outdated. Life holds no guarantees, and it’s a rare person who never has to deal with great sorrow.

I was drawn to Taylor’s description of sadness as a bridge to other people, because I have found it to be true. It’s an oversimplification to say “misery loves company.” As I see it, sorrow opens my heart to others because I become aware of how much each of us carries around inside us, and that understanding binds me to people with whom I might otherwise (mistakenly) believe I have nothing in common. Merely to be human is to share a great deal with every other person I meet. To some people that probably sounds trite, but for me, it has become a formidable defense against feeling alone and isolated.

This blog would not exist if I believed it was healthy to wallow in despondency or self-pity. But the burdens of life are real and inescapable, and in facing them squarely, there are paradoxical consolations– among which is the equalizing realization of the universal encumbrances of mortality.

Many have observed that going through some disaster or adversity binds people together in ways that prosperity never will. If you are facing sadness or setbacks in your life, I hope you will find solace in the unique bonds you form with fellow travelers on similar paths. Taylor is right in asserting that sadness does not have to sink a person, and indeed, it often transforms into a kind of strength that can change a life…or an entire world.

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

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