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What it Means to be Happy and Sad

I wonder how many blogs I’ll start with a comment on the weather in New York City. Does that habit make me an old person? Or a bad writer? Or worse, a predictable one? 

Don’t answer that. Instead, let me tell you about rain. 

Spring rolled in and brought mostly rain. A few days of sunshine, yes (did you see Olive in Central Park?) and I am grateful for that, but otherwise rain. Lots of it. In mists and sprinkles and flash flooding, agnostic to the day’s plans or particulars.

Which, for someone who relies on walking as her main mode of transportation, is inconvenient. And, in a city so freaking full of people all the time, it’s dangerous too. I cannot understate the perils of walking down a Sixth Avenue sidewalk with crowds of common people wielding umbrellas at their every whim.

I will die insisting that New Yorkers (meaning anyone who is ever in New York) should be required to take an umbrella etiquette – nay, safety – course. There is enough danger in the world without our eyes at risk of being impailed because Susan doesn’t have spacial awareness. 

The point is, it’s raining. And usually this equates to a tough decision about shoes in the morning (rain boots=lame, sandals=pneumonia, tennis shoes=wet socks), as well as dodging and ducking umbrella spokes on the sidewalk as you race for the train, and mysterious puddles on subway seats that are likely the shed skin of raincoats but could also be homeless person pee so you cannot risk sitting. Amongst other things. 

But today, the rain just means pensiveness that feels a little trite but also homey, little colorful circles pinballing against each other on the street as I watch from my 19th floor office window, and a sleepy, splashy trip to the bookstore on my way home from work. Today rain feels happy. And also sad. But in a happy way.

New York is absolutely filthy. There are walls of garbage bags that line the streets each day waiting to be picked up and sent God knows where. There are unknown liquids, goos, and gunks on almost every surface and sidewalk. And only the bravest of souls use their whole hands on subway poles. The rest of us take a wide stance and surf it out. At most, hook an elbow around a rail and then immediately wash the shirt we were wearing. 

But it’s beautiful, too. Bathed in every shade of brick and shimmer of glass and hue of history. The curling iron banisters of the Upper West Side. The staggering shadows cast by Midtown towers. The rainbow storefronts of SoHo. The depth of history sunk between skyscrapers downtown. 

And the rain somehow highlights it all. Just as pictures turn out better on cloudy days, so too does the beauty of this weird and wild world shine brighter against a backdrop dripping grey.

Happy and sad at the same time. The perfect description of this phenomena (and the title of my favorite song by Kacey Musgraves).

Both alluding to this mystery, this gift of our capacity to feel. so. much. all at once. I wrote recently about my journey with emotions. It’s still a work in progress but on days like today I’m astounded at how much my heart can hold

I am lonely and home and longing and eager and hurt and frantic and amazed. And those are just the things that I have words for. But so many others swirl in and around them. My emotions mirror those little colorful circles pinballing against each other on the street as I watch from my 19th floor office window. A parade of feelings. A circus, maybe. A symphony. A buffet.

I’m afraid of this. But also quite pleased that I can be so human, so untethered, so nakedly affected by the world around me. That I can burst into tears of joy over a text from a friend who gave birth to a perfect, tiny creature. That I can burst into flames over the unfolding of a chapter of my mom’s life that I wouldn’t have written. That I can be somewhere in between the two over improper umbrella usage on the street.

I guess what I mean is that it’s just a gift to be alive. To live and breathe and feel. 

Steadied, grounded by deeper truths and greater purpose. But emboldened, empowered by a heart that feels. A life decorated by tears and laughter and a few well-placed cuss words here and there.

All this occurs to me as I walk to the bookstore in the rain. And I cry happy and sad tears that luckily look like rain drops as the pave their way down to my chin. 

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