God, I love a good cry. There’s nothing better, nothing more cleansing.

But crying is a release. Sadness is what precedes it. We are multidimensional creatures, and sadness is just part of life, part of being alive. It’s what makes us human.

In the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, nostalgia was considered a symptom of mental illness. To ponder the past denoted an unsound mind. But who are we without our stories, our memories, without reconciling our past?

There is a trend among New Agers to forget the past and live fully in the present. Really?

Because the people I admire the most, those who have wrestled with their demons and won, who have found solace, whose depth reveals an examined life, have certainly not forgotten their pasts. They’ve learned from them. They’ve transmuted them into something richer and far more meaningful.

My twenties were borderline disastrous, but they were also revelatory. I made the same mistakes over and over again, I walked down the wrong roads, I kissed the frogs. And yet, sometimes when I’m quiet at night, I miss them. That isn’t to say I’d like to go back, but I do miss the endless navel-gazing. I miss the nights spent pouring over great thinkers and great writers, curling up with Counting Crows as I wrestled with insomnia. My cycles of depression might have been robbing me of forward momentum, but they were also affirming my reflective nature. They were seeding something within me, something essential.

Depression and sadness, however, are not the same thing. Depression is the absence of feeling, sadness is the deepening of it.

In the Oscar-winning film Inside Out, Sadness is a character demonized by Joy’s unrelenting pursuit of glee, but as the film progresses Joy begins to understand Sadness’s role.

We aren’t meant to be happy all the time. That isn’t real. Sadness gives us context. It gives us depth and dimension. I find it grounding, it anchors me here, on earth. And it cleanses me. Because I know that everything is temporary, that life ebbs and flows. That my ability to experience sadness is embedded in my ability to experience joy.

Which is why I love a good cry. It’s the breaking point. The rain pours down and afterwards, the rainbow appears. Maybe not immediately. But eventually, once the sadness has been felt and released, a clearing appears and it’s so much richer for it.

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