April 4, 2016
How To Be Sad – Peace Corps Style
When that familiar ache first saturates your heart, ignore it. Give yourself a pep talk and go about your day. Remind yourself of all the good things in life: the way Gladys calls you “dear” (“deah”), the ritualistic morning hugs from Marian, that pivotal moment when you see a pupil’s face light up with recognition.
When the ache starts to throb, dive into your projects; the things that make you happy. Work all day and then bring your work home with you. Spend weekends making posters of the menstruation cycle for an upcoming workshop. Take on more classes and spend all your extra time working on the library. At night, when you think about all the reasons for that ache in your heart and you feel your eyes well up, go back to thinking about the layout of the library. When you’re still awake at 2 a.m., drown out the voices in your head by writing lesson plans.
Eventually, that ache will start to twist and you won’t be able to stop the tears from escaping.
You will cry for a whole night, hoping for the brief respite of slumber which never comes. You will emerge from your bed the next morning and gaze at your reflection in the mirror. You can try to give yourself a pep talk but inevitably, your voice will break and you will have to tear your red-rimmed eyes away from the broken girl in the mirror.
Make a cup of overly-bitter instant coffee and sip it until the physical exhaustion lifts. Text some of your Peace Corps friends. Sob to your sister over a phone connection filled with distorted voices and static. With a layer of love around you, head to work. When you get there, your teachers will take in your puffy eyes and your stuffed nose and diagnose you (wrongly) with a fever. Use this as an excuse to leave work during break time.
Spend the rest of the day in bed.
The aches, the throbs, the twists. You have never had a sadness manifest itself so physically before. Lose yourself in that sadness. Feel each individual tear slip down your cheek; feel the chilling trail it leaves in its wake. Let the tears slip into your mouth and taste the salty mixture. Go to the place where your heart lies and make yourself delve into the agony that comes with each shaky breath.
Feel It. Taste It. Hear It. Recognize the intention behind every single emotion. Know who you are in that moment until the sobs don’t sound like they’re coming from a phantom version of yourself.
Eventually, the tears will subside and the only ache you will feel is the one in your throat. Light some scented candles and take a warm bath. Revel in the feeling of warm water cascading down your worn-out body. Slice up a cucumber for your swollen eyes, put on some soft music and lie in your bed. Drift off to sleep knowing that you just overcame something great – a necessary sadness.