I had an eventful day this past Monday. I went to my last counseling session. Well, it probably won’t be my last because life likes to go a little wonky from time to time and I think for the rest of my life when life goes a little sideways I will happily take myself to a counselor’s couch for a while. But, for now, after almost three years of sitting on that couch every other Monday, I’ve passed through to the other side. And do you know what’s crazy? In that whole three years of couch sitting all sorts of life stuff happened. Good stuff, bad stuff, sad stuff, confusing stuff, but through it all sitting at the core of all that “stuff” were just a couple of key battles I had to learn to fight.
I won’t bore you with all the details but there was one battle I waged, and will continue to back down, that I found particularly fascinating and I would like to share it with you. This was a war I fought with sadness. For decades I fought sadness off with every weapon I had in my arsenal. I got angry with it (this was my personal favorite, by the way.) I ignored it. I ran away from it. I did everything in my power to downplay the significance of sadness. There were memories from my past that when even mentioned by my counselor, would cause me to sob uncontrollably and then, when I had gained composure, I absolutely refused to talk about. They were too much. The sadness was too much. The grief was too hard. And when I entered into it, I felt too vulnerable and if I was honest, too weak.
Not to sound like super chipper Joy from Inside Out (An amazing movie, by the way. It may or may not have played a significant role in this journey I took), but sadness was just such a weak feeling to me. It did nothing. It got you nowhere. It left you at the mercy of others and it could sometimes lead to people feeling sorry for you and nothing was more painful to me than sensing someone felt sorry for me.
And after a few years of sitting on a counselor’s couch and a few months of sitting on another counselor’s couch and having her zap my brain (not really, but if you have never heard of EMDR you should check it out. It’s incredible.) I came to this past Monday. As my counselor and I talked and recapped my journey of the last three years, she said something to me that made me draw in a sharp breath and exhale a breath of freedom. She said, “I think you have learned to touch sadness. And more importantly you have learned that sadness won’t kill you. And even more importantly, you have learned to walk through sadness.”
Do you know what crazy, random thought popped into my brain when she said that? A line from a book I haven’t read in years but is etched in my brain forever. It’s from The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis and it’s such a small line, almost an aside tucked in a paragraph filled with meaning. As the good guys prepare to wage war against the bad guys, the leader of the good guys is giving some last minute instructions. When he gets to a character named Jill, my personal favorite Narnian character, he says this “If you must weep, turn your head to the side so you don’t get your bow string wet.”
This line stuck in my brain even the first time I read it at 8 years old and every time I have read it since, countless times, I have paused at that line and felt there was a significance to it I simply couldn’t understand at the time. And also, what?! There’s no crying in war! Get a grip, Jill!
And as I sat in my counselor’s office and she remarked on my ability to touch sadness and move through it, I suddenly thought of Jill. Jill, the warrior. Jill, with string on bow ready to do her part in what would be the ultimate battle against evil. Jill was waging war while weeping. She wept because the sadness of the impending moment was too much. It was too real. It was overwhelming. And yet, there she was. Bow at the ready. String ready to release. Arrow ready to fly. Battle ready to be waged.
Her sadness did not stand in the way of the role she had to play. If anything, it fueled her passion to fight it! Her sadness was a reminder of the significance of what she was fighting for! She touched her sadness. She moved through it. And she played her role. She fought the battle.
As this image of Jill played over and over in my mind, I realized the significance of this minuscule line for me all those years ago and why it had haunted me every time I came across it. I had never seen someone be given permission to weep while fighting. I certainly had never allowed myself permission to weep as I came up against life’s hardships. I had viewed sadness as weakness and I knew weakness played no role in the battle that is life sometimes.
But now, I see sadness for what it really is. An asset. A reminder. A wellspring of passion and significance. It is possible to be a weeping warrior. In fact, they might just make the best kind of warrior. The weeping warriors can touch sadness and battle their way to the other side.