learn from sadnessFor the past several years, I have sometimes (and sometimes often) felt sad for no particular reason.

I tend to notice these feelings most during my quiet moments – perhaps in the morning, or in the evening. While I am taking my walks is also a time when I have more attention to give to myself, and so sometimes I will notice the sadness then.

When it first started, I would hear this phrase over and over in my head: “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” I didn’t know who was saying it (a young me? me now? someone else?) or who it was being said to (myself now? myself then? someone else?)

It almost felt like I was speaking in code to myself, only I had neglected to give myself the primer to decode my own messages. Obviously, I was intrigued. Even more obviously, at times I was bothered a bit – if it had been joy I was feeling, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to dig too deeply. But since it was sadness, an emotional state I don’t love, I was more motivated to get to the root of the issue and try to make it stop.

As I worked on it, slowly but surely some insights began to arise. For starters, the speaker, the recipient and the meaning were not always identical. Sometimes, it was the girl me who was apologizing to her parents or others for being her, for failing, for not having all the answers, for disappointing an unnamed someone. At other times, it was me at an indeterminate age apologizing to whatever concept of God I happened to have at that time for a myriad of imagined (or real) oopses.

At still other times, it was me as an adult, apologizing to myself as an adult or as a girl. It was here that I had a most helpful breakthrough. After one particularly prolonged session of “I’m sorry” that extended over a few frustrating days, I finally got the bright idea to ask myself, “How can I make it up to you?” The answer I heard surprised me. From within myself I heard, “Keep fighting. Don’t just give up when things get hard.”

I had never seen myself as someone who was anything but a fighter. But in these words, I saw that it is one thing to fight in fact and another thing to fight in spirit – to believe into the very core of my being that I have the resources to tackle any challenge (a statement I have been sharing publicly in talks for years). I thought I already believed and lived that statement on all levels – from spiritual to physical – but clearly I wasn’t there yet. I am still not, even though I get stronger every day.

I also saw in my advice back to myself how I often do get very down and dejected on the inside when things don’t go my way or when something is harder to pull off than I assumed it would or should be. It is not even that I blame myself necessarily – I just feel my fatigue so deeply that I have this moment of totally wanting to give up, to stop trying, to just wait to die.

Yikes. I’m only 42!!

Luckily I don’t feel like that most of the time. But then again, I don’t hear “I’m sorry” over and over and over again most of the time either. These moments are relatively rare in the big picture, but when they do come about, like repeat dreams (another phenomenon that is common in my life), they clearly come bearing helpful messages for my highest good.

Today’s Takeaway: Where do you sometimes find repetitive occurrences in your life – whether they be a dream you have over and over, a feeling you can’t shake, words you hear in your head or even a movie or tv series you become obsessed with for no “good reason”? What message – and gift – might these experiences be bringing you that can ease your pain and improve your life?

Sad young man photo available from Shutterstock