Empathy and Beautiful Sorrow

Maybe it’s because I’m an empathetic person, but I didn’t really find it funny or strange that the character in American Beauty was able to find such beauty in nothing more than garbage.

Some days I, too, feel like I will be overwhelmed by the sorrowful beauty in the world. It all just gets so much, and so fast, and sometimes it gets to to the point that all I can do is cry. For a long time, I’ve struggled with depression. As far back as I can remember, my first instinct to overwhelming emotions was to cry.

I’m still the same way. I am such an emotional person, and so sometimes I have to cut away from it. Fear, anger, stress, sadness, beauty…. it can all impact me so viscerally.

Because it is daylight savings time, I’m once more reminded of my emotions. Changes to my schedule, unless they are very gradual, affect me strongly. Daylight savings time, with the darkness that greets me for my last hour at work, to the added stress of upcoming holidays, along with many other little things leaves me an emotional wreck.

But this morning I found myself pondering the connection between beauty and sadness. I’m certainly not the first, as there are many people through the ages who have conflated the two, but hopefully I will be able to more healthily work through these feelings by blogging.

When I was younger, I read “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”. And then I read it again and again. Charlie was such a sympathetic and real character to me. I’m not great with crowds – I would rather speak to a crowd than be a part of one. So I tend to watch. I see others who are like me, awkwardly standing there and wondering what to do. I see others desperately pretending they’re not like me, but I can see through the veneer to their discomfort and self-consciousness.

And I can see the people who are naturals in a crowd, thriving off the energy.

I could connect with what Charlie sees, but also what he feels. A passion that is quiet but always there. A true love and affection for life, despite what has happened to him. A sense of helplessness and sorrow at being unable to save the people he loves. And compassion.

He doesn’t judge his friends. He simply accepts them for who and what they were and are, without question. That’s always been how I’ve been, but it’s not always been beautiful.

I think one of the reasons that Perks leaves me feeling a bit melancholy is because I want to protect Charlie. He was lucky. He met people who loved and appreciated him back, but quiet people, people who observe and are mindful and thoughtful are also often abused. Thought of as weak or non-contributing. Quiet people are so often bullied and pushed around by the louder and more extroverted people, and because of the quiet mindfulness, we often ruminate on it. We take the blame.

So the beauty of his openness, and honesty… That same breath of refreshing air that the character brought me also made me so incredibly sad, because I never want the world to be able to take that passion and joy away, but it will try.

When I went to Paris’ funeral, I was never more aware of this. She was the most miraculous, open, and loving person I have ever met. I let people in so easily, but with her… she deserved it. She didn’t take advantage of that openness, or of me.

After the ceremony, there was a rainbow. I’m not a religious woman. I don’t believe in an afterlife.

But for that moment, when that bright rainbow arched across the sky, I wanted to believe. I wanted to believe that this was her sign that she’s okay, that she wanted to comfort us. Because that’s what she would have done.

So I think there so often is melancholy beauty all around us, and sometimes it gets to be too much. It seems to those on the outside that it’s silly, or that my reactions are extreme, but that’s just the way I am. Susceptible to utter beauty in the face of absolute sorrow.

It’s why my favourite books leave me in tears, and my favourite shows are ones that I feel a real connection with the characters, and why we write such personal and dark stories.

Life without emotion is now life at all, and for me it’s a life I cannot live. I feel things too strongly, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

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