Reflections: When in a 'Sad' Mood

You know how you get in those moods sometimes, where you’re just like, “I kind of want to feel sad right now,” and it’s seemingly for no particular reason?

Well, I’m not exactly feeling that right now, but I’m at a point somewhere along the spectrum that leans toward that side of things. It’s a mood that descends upon me now and then, a mood that makes me especially perceptible to my creative tendencies and desires — meaning, when I feel this way, I want to read a classic novel or write a depressing poem or photograph myself in black and white.

I cannot describe this mood in any kind of concrete way. Even though I say it is a “sad” mood, I like being in it, which means it cannot truly be sad. No one truly revels in being sad. It’s perhaps more appropriate to call it a reflective or contemplative kind of mood. I think of things like space, of laying on the back porch at my parents’ house in Northern Michigan and looking up at an undisturbed night sky full of stars. That is an image seared into my mind, and it will always bring along with it a certain sense of nostalgia. 

I can get poetic, thinking of that image. I can feel “sad” remembering that image while I do not have access to it. And if I follow that train of thought, it has sometimes led me to a notion that is somewhat unnerving: the fact that everything, every single thing, that is not part of this present moment, this right here, right now, is a memory. The people you love are only memories when you are not with them.

In these “sad” moods, I like to listen to songs that have a certain quality about them, the power to take me away, like an out-of-body experience, but also not that at all. Something like “Remember Me as a Time of Day” by Explosions in the Sky. That’s the song that plays toward the end of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl — an excellent movie if you haven’t seen it. Or a song like “Forever” by Breaking Benjamin, which repeatedly asks, “Can I stay alive forever?”

The “sad” mood seems to be connected to a feeling I remember having a long time ago when I was a kid. I liked the idea of coming across as mysterious, as seeming like someone with something to hide, however innocuous that thing might be, as having some reason to appear wounded or hurt in some way because of something that had happened. But like I was saying, it is one thing to wish to seem this way and entirely another to actually have been hurt by someone or something — to feel sad for real, in an authentic way. But how are we to judge the authenticity of sadness anyway?

I guess I think of the term “emo” when describing this kind of thing, wanting to appear as if some great offense or injustice has been perpetrated against you and you are “sad” because of this. What is the connection between sadness and creativity, though? Easy: the best stories aren’t born from ideal conditions, from everything going right and turning out fine. And maybe that’s why these “sad” moods are analogous to the creative juices flowing. Maybe that's why I revel in them.

Meryl Streep said recently, quoting the late Carrie Fisher, “Take your broken heart, make it into art.” I wrote that down. But it seems like something I’ve always known anyway.