When I was in my twenties, I had a perceptive psychiatrist. She was Polish, soft-spoken, but completely honest. Something she said to me has stayed with me for more than twenty-five years.
‘That empty feeling you’re feeling inside is sorrow.’
This sounded bleak to a depressed writer, but the more I thought about it, the word – and the emotion – actually carried a lot of power. It has weight, it has something that draws you down the bottom. There you will see what you are truly grieving, instead of blindly and restlessly following a quick-fix or an instant Band-Aid cure.
Here’s the truth. When you enter that emptiness – well, that’s when you have the silence to really listen to your true voice. That’s where your story will be found.
However, sorrow isn’t an excuse to stop living or writing or creating. Sorrow isn’t self-pity. The one is an authentic emotion, the other is just another excuse. It’s easy to confuse the two.
I asked her what the ‘cure’ for this sorrow was. ‘You do what we all do,’ she said rather philosophically. ‘You fill up your day with honest work, until you’re tired and you fall asleep – you don’t dwell on it.’
This is good advice. I try to listen to it when I remember.
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