Every now and then, someone’s words land in my heart with the resonance of a temple gong. “Pay attention!” they whisper urgently. “This applies to you.” Yesterday, the words were:

“We live, we die, this infuriates us—but far better that it saddens sus, and that we find ways to honor and transcend our sadness.” –Mohsin Hamid

That’s what’s been going on inside me lately. My recent unexpected stay in the hospital reminded me that I am not living in a healthy, reliable body. I live with significant limitations.

In a recent blog post, I wrote about my stubborn inner five-year-old, who wants what she wants right now. What I’m really writing about there is anger. On one level, I am infuriated that I can’t do what other 61-year-olds can do. It’s an old song and I’m surprised that I didn’t recognize it.

Rather than staying with the anger, Hamid encourages us to dig deeper, unearthing the sadness that lies beneath the brittle fury. It takes much more courage to be sad than to be angry.

Here I sit, breathing gently into my grief. Longing for a healthier body, and more predictable life. Sit here, breathing. Try not to move on too quickly. Let the sadness pour out like honey, thick and sweet, gathered from the nectar of dozens of small injuries.

From experience I know that anger develops into depression, if I turn it inward or contempt, if I twist it outward. At its best, it translates into activism. Sadness, if I stay with it, gently transforms into compassion.

Uncovering emotional layers isn’t just purposeless naval-gazing. Discovering what I feel underneath my initial labels helps me move through experiences, rather than get stuck in them. Becoming aware gives me choices.

In your journal:

  • “I feel [feeling word] and underneath that, I feel [feeling word b] and underneath that, I feel… (See how far you can go.)
  • Write about your experiences with anger. Describe how it feels in your body.
  • Write about your experiences with sadness. Again, describe how it feels in your body. How do you how
  • How do you honor sadness?