A young man, Peter, inherited a small independent pharmacy in a rather busy market. He had always wanted to be a guitarist but couldn’t turn his passion into a career and so when his father passed away, the pharmacy fell into his lap. The business paid his bills all right but how he hated getting up in the mornings and slogging through the day in that small shop. Why couldn’t Dad have been the owner of a pub or a dance club or even that cafe? I have known people with much less talent who made it big and here I am, slaving away in this damn pharmacy, seeing sick people all day. Could it get more pathetic? Instead of claps, life gave me slaps. A sad life of a loser.
Across the road, just a block down, was the old cafe Peter yearned to own. It was also run by a young guy, John, who’d taken over the business from his aging father. They knew each other by now and exchanged pleasantries every time their paths crossed or when Peter dropped in at his cafe, which was a fair bit. Often walking past the coffee shop, the aroma of freshly brewed coffee would jolt him out of his melancholy. On weekends, it sported live music while cheerful patrons drank coffee and ate ice-cream, waffles and cakes. I wish my dead father owned at least this cafe. I could play guitar and lead the live band here on the weekends.
After a particularly tiring Monday once, Peter had a splitting headache. I could do with a cuppa, he thought, and stepped out to get some fresh air and a nice, hot coffee.
“A double shot of espresso,” Peter ordered and gleaned the display for a suitable dessert. “And, where’s John?” he asked casually while paying.
“Oh, him,” the barista said, “He had a terrible headache. John said he was going to your pharmacy to get some Panadol.”
We look at others believing they have the solutions and “the others” feel the same about us. And yet, sometimes life has no solutions because there is no problem to begin with. In fact, it can feel most empty when we are blessed with everything. When someone feels sad and unfulfilled most of the time, it’s no longer a question of feelings but of attitude. The sadness virus has struck and it has three classic symptoms that cause persistent sadness and negativity.
I am not the cause
People who are eternally sad live on borrowed dreams. Like every other human being, they want things from their life, things they feel will give them happiness. Nothing wrong with having such expectations except that those suffering from the sadness virus hold others responsible for not seeing their wishes fulfilled. They feel that someone else should have done it for them. That, what they want from their life is not their own but other people’s responsibility. My parents should have fared better, my partner should have been more understanding, my siblings could have been more supportive or my children could have been more grateful and so on. That, I am not the cause of what I am feeling or going through is the number one sign of someone who is either already a negative person or will soon turn into one.
I don’t have enough
I am not suggesting that all patients of the sadness virus are ungrateful or forever engaged in endless comparison (and therefore jealous and envious), but they do seem to constantly swing between “I don’t have enough” and “I don’t have as much”. The feeling that I-don’t-have-enough doesn’t always arise from comparison, for, you could easily desire better things in life not because others also have them but because you want them for your own comfort. I-don’t-have-as-much, however, arises when we compare ourselves with others. That, others have it more than me and that they have it maybe because they just got lucky. Nothing takes away your happiness as swiftly as these two feelings: I don’t have enough or I don’t have as much.
I don’t deserve this
Now comes the most compelling symptom of the sadness virus. Anyone bitten by the sadness bug is plagued by self-pity. I don’t deserve this, the whole world is out there to get me, why does my life have to be so miserable, no one appreciates me, everyone is jealous of me, no one wants me or people only want me because of their selfish reasons and so on.
My English teacher, Prof. Sharma, who was much more than a teacher to me, he was my mentor, guru and guide, always used to say, “Self-pity is ruinous. Don’t you ever feel sorry for yourself.” I was barely fourteen years old then and didn’t fully understand the meaning and depth of his words; I hadn’t seen as much of the world. But, having met thousands of people since then, it is my unfailing observation too that if someone joins the pity-party, there’s little you can do to help them. Rather than getting off the pity-parade, if I choose to just stay there and feel sorry for myself, my circumstances will only get worse, my mental equipoise will only deteriorate.
Whether we deserve our struggles does not matter as much as the wisdom that nothing will change if I don’t do something about it.
A pharmacist steps out for a coffee because he’s got a headache and the cafe-owner is coming to him because his head is hurting. Either way, both feel that the other person has the solution.
Remember, a fleeting feeling of sadness is not the same as suffering from the sadness virus. We all experience sadness in different ways, at different times, that’s normal. While sadness lasts the longest out of all the other emotions, it remains a passing emotion. It comes and goes. The sadness virus on the other hand just knocks you out. It needs precaution and treatment.
The next time you feel sad, do ask yourself this simple question: am I just feeling sad or am I suffering from sadness? Do you feel someone else is responsible for your feelings, or that life has been unfair to you or every other person you know seems to be doing better than you, or do you feel sorry for yourself? If the answer is yes, you need to get up and get into action. Change your thoughts, change what you tell yourself and others, change how you do what you do and change how you look at the world. Start with a positive change, start with something small and measurable. Before long you will walk out of sadness unscathed. Your fears and insecurities will no longer bother you, you will feel as invincible as a lion among a herd of deer.
Above all, you will be happy and liberated as is the case when we feel that we are in control.
Now, what do you call a sad cup of coffee?
Since I mentioned coffee at various places in this post, I couldn’t resist slipping in this PJ. PJ = Proper Joke.
Time for my espresso.
Stay indoors, stay safe.