The Only Thing I Ever Got From You Was Sorrow

I’ve been thinking about sorrow today.

Sounds a bit bleak, I know, but actually, it’s not.

What started me on this line of thought was three comments about sorrow in a row that were all more or less the same.

The first one occurred in a book. Man Crazy by Joyce Carol Oates. I love me some Joyce Carol Oates. Her stories are so real. Her characters are people I really know.

One of the characters in Man Crazy asked, rather profoundly:

‘Do people make their own sorrow?’

I have been thinking about that for days. I think many people do create situations that cause them sorrow, maybe inadvertently, but they create the situations nonetheless. For me, the situations that have caused me the most sorrow are the ones where I haven’t believed in myself enough to make a stand and change things. I’ve put up with things I shouldn’t. Difficult people. Difficult circumstances. Compromises that serve no purpose other than to assist the game player in his or her game-playing. Not being true to myself has caused me more sorrow than births, deaths or natural disasters ever could.

The second comment came from Rosemary, a lady I speak to occasionally in the park. She is in her late sixties and visits the park to sketch the local flora and fauna. She is a gifted artist, does those proper botanical drawings that you see in academic journals.

We were talking about the economic crisis and she said she felt most people had contributed even in a small way to the crisis by putting pressure on themselves to live a lifestyle dictated to them by the media. She believes people in modern society look too often to external factors to find happiness when happiness is so much more easily found within themselves.

‘Filling their lives with things they can’t really have makes people sorrowful,’ she said. ‘Until they are happy with themselves, the things will never be enough.’

Wow Rosemary. Way to knock me for six.

The third comment came from my friend, Gina, who is going through a bit of a divorce. I say a bit because it’s one of those divorces that takes one step forward then another back in the same breath. One problem is resolved then another immediately arises. Hearing about it is exhausting. I can’t imagine what Gina must be feeling. Exhausted, probably.

Anyway, Gina said she listened to that David Bowie song today. Sorrow. These are the lyrics –

‘With your long blonde hair and your eyes of blue

The only thing I ever got from you

was sorrow…’

It’s the only thing Gina believes she got from her husband. Sorrow.

‘Why do you say that?’ I asked.

‘Because I wasn’t me the whole time I was married. I was who he wanted me to be. I’ve lost myself and that makes me sorrowful.’

Wham. Bam. I feel like I have Carl Jung in the room with me blathering on about meaningful  coincidences and synchronicity.

Is someone up there trying to tell me something?

Some days I would like to think it could never be possible for me to create an emotion, a state, as taut, as stick-still as sorrow. Instead I would simply like to walk as far away as I could. From myself.

I don’t want to listen to any more excuses as to why I can’t be happy just as I am. I want to go all new-agey, patchouli-burning, barefoot in the grass and say : ‘I am happy right now. Without the things I wish for. I own the moment.’

For surely if we can make our own sorrow, we can also make our own happiness.

22 thoughts on “The Only Thing I Ever Got From You Was Sorrow

  1. I firmly believe a lot of the sorrow I endure is manufacured by me. Be it a poor diet, or focusing on the negative…ect…ect. Slowly, I have been snapping out of it. Remaining positive and being grateful has helped. Also aiding me has been the poetry blogosphere…and of course you Selma. I loved this post and the timing was perfect. Thank you.


  2. I think its very true that a state of mind creates a knock on effect.
    Great post, Selma, and a positive one to boot.
    I relate to Gina and once the sorrow is over, the libertion is immense.
    Rosemary is insightful, keeping up with the Jones’ is way too much pressure and joyless to boot.


  3. The American Army have an excellent recruiting slogan ‘Be all you can be’. Now, if you’ve ‘been all you can be’ … sorrow, I think, takes a back seat. The only time it manifests itself is when you come across a friend or relative having a hard time … what often takes its place is anger.

    ‘Why didn’t he stay at school?’ ‘Why doesn’t she kick him out, and get on with her life?’ etc.

    A lot of people think grief and sorrow are synonymous. I don’t think they are; the grief you experience at the loss of a loved one, for instance, will sooner or later pass. Sorrow can last quite a while longer.


  4. I agree to a certain extent that we can be responsible for some of our own sorrow even unintentionally but equally we HAVE to be responsible for our own happiness. Certainly other people can contribute to our joy but ultimately it is a choice to be happy. A choice we make ourselves.

    I believe we all have a hidden strength inside us that shows itself when the chips are really down. I doubt whether many of us know of our own true potential in life but it’s up to us to find out what it is and believe we can make it in spite of outside influences.


  5. There you go Selma- exactly my take on things.

    I remember the exact moment I discovered this. I was living with my father and his wife who despised me and I was taking refuge where I often did as a child out in the horse pasture by the creek passing through. I remember saying to myself, none of this matters, all that matters is what I think. What I think. Full stop. I can think gosh this sucks, OR I can think gosh this could make me stronger, a better person. From there I started observing and deciding how I feel not letting circumstance bully me and now I’m here and here is a very good place.

    I so agree with Rosemary. Stuff just makes you sad. I was thinking yesterday that this collapse of all of the money things could turn out to be a blessing.


  6. That’s pretty much the self-help post I’ve been aspiring to write ever since I started my blog. I think we do have a tendency to create trouble for ourselves. On the other hand, there are factors beyond our control that can cause sorrow. Taking responsibility for our own emotional state can be both empowering, in that you realize how much of it you can control, and depressing, in that you can easily blame yourself for things that are beyond your control. It works both ways, but I like your idea of “owning the moment” quite a bit. I’ll burn some incense with you any day. Or maybe some other stuff.


  7. Wonderful post Selma! Keep your chin up, as they say (whoever they are).
    I did a post on the word ‘Sorry’ for SES awhile back:
    I feel using the word ‘sorry’ (at all, ever, even once a day) invokes and evokes sorrow. It is possible to feel grief as travelrat pointed out or apologize without sorrow or sorry.
    If you wish to banish sorrow, delete ‘sorry’ from your vocabulary ASAP!

    “…we can also make our own happiness.” I Love It! Absolutely! We can make anything; we make everything! We are the dreamers, the dream-makers and the dream!

    Cheers Selma!


    If I can climb out of the pit of sorrow I have built for myself and help anyone else, I feel great. I do firmly believe that helping others is one of the roads to happiness. I don’t do enough of it. Lately, I have become a little insular and have enjoyed my wallowing. But it’s time to stop that!

    Great to hear from you. Gina has said she can smell the liberation, but she hasn’t gotten there yet. I didn’t realise some divorces could go on for so long. it’s true, there is a knock on effect. I hope it continues.

    What a fantastic comment! I agree that grief and sorrow aren’t synonymous. Grief is much more immediate. BE ALL YOU CAN BE is so good. I want that on a T-shirt.

    I’ve seen that inner strength in so many people whom I never suspected had it in them. Life is really hard at times and it is tempting to just give up. But just the thought of realising that true potential is what keeps me going. To me, you are one of the people I know with real inner strength. I don’t know how you do it!

    To come to that conclusion as a child shows just how strong you are. You have overcome things that would crush most people. I really do admire your outlook on life!

    So nice to hear from you! I remember your ‘Sorry’ post. It was excellent. You’re right – we can do anything. Let’s go for it!!!! 😀


    Oh, there definitely are external factors that contribute to our sorrow which are completely beyond our control. And that’s the hard part, isn’t it? Not letting those factors control our state of mind. I had a big convo with my friend Gina over this very thing. Her ex is causing a lot of trouble over finances and so on and she is very stressed. She rang me from work the other day, in tears, asking if I could pick her up as she couldn’t bear to get the bus home. She was a mess. But we decided that letting the stress take hold like that doesn’t achieve anything. It doesn’t change the outcome. But remaining calm and focused might. Of course, it’s easier said than done and personally I want to knee her ex in the groin and stick bamboo under his fingernails, but at the end of the day that won’t help Gina.

    You have hit on a key point for me and that is how important it is not to blame ourselves for external factors we can’t control. I wish I had said that. So important. And yes, I’ll ‘burn’ anything with you anytime. 😆


  10. Oh please don’t go all new agey. Jung wouldn’t be happy about it, he was a strict logician. I’m sure Rosemary’s insight and her vocation are related.


  11. Hi Selma,

    I spent most of my life wallowing in sorrow, even while seemingly happy . . . I faked it. And I spent many hours writing about how bad I felt in poetry, stories and into my first year of blogging. When I quit writing about it, I seemed to feel better, but that happened on the tail end of many years of therapy and so forth. I used to feel guilty about not feeling bad about everything. I believe we create our own views in life–the good and the bad. I’m not looking to be happy 24-7, but instead to be even . . . almost neutral in a sense; and avoiding feeling horrible. No matter what happens in my life, I am confident I can deal with it and not let it destroy my well-being . . . even in death:)

    Very insightful post!


  12. Great post, Selma, and equally insightful comments. I also believe the media feeds us daily doses of poison. If I had to take a stab at it, I’d say about 80% of the news focuses on the negative.
    Loved the way you ended your post. “For surely if we can make our own sorrow, we can also make our own happiness”


  13. Thought-provoking post.

    I thought about this a lot when I was going through my grieving process last year. I have become a lot more self-contained as a result and yes, determined I will always be me and lead the life I want to lead. And I am happy.

    I guess there is a risk, and it occurs to me sometimes, that the opposite side, is being uncaring. If I become too self-contained, unaware of others I suppose, then I risk becoming detached and I suppose arrogant even if I am happy ie I might make others unhappy even though I remain happy myself.

    So there needs to be a balance.


  14. PAUL:
    No fear of that, really. I can’t see it. Nice thought, though.

    You have such an amazing attitude, considering all you have been through. You constantly make me want to improve my outlook. Good on you!!

    Oh, I definitely agree with you on that one. It’s almost as if they feel it can’t be proper news unless it’s bad news, so they focus on that. I do think it’s only right we should be able to make our own happiness too!!

    That is a very good point. I think there is a risk that self-containment can lead to detachment and perhaps arrogance. Like anything, balance is the key. A very insightful comment. Thank you.


  15. You are correct – opposition in all things you know. I went to a women’s nigh t at our church Wed and the speaker was talking about how things that make us sorrowful are things in hindsight that help us grow and learn. Without sorrow we can’t know joy – it wouldn’t have any meaning to us.


  16. Food for thought Sel. I think many times in life that we do for whatever reasons, cause our own sorrow. But there are so many times that good people suffer at the hands of the devils of this world, and seemingly for no reason at all. I wish I could manufacture more happiness for me and Joe right now, we are living through some very hard days.

    Hugs, G


    Absolutely agree. We’d never truly know joy without experiencing sorrow first. Very wise words from you and the speaker at your church!!

    It’s true. We can’t always completely own our sorrow because often other people cause it for us. I am sorry about your hard times, hon. Hope they pass soon.


  18. “the situations that have caused me the most sorrow are the ones where I haven’t believed in myself enough to make a stand and change things.”

    Yep. That feeling of powerlessness always gets me down.


  19. Good on you. Grief and Sorrow ARE different. The Buddhists say, the “detachment” of want(not desiring) leads to less sorrow, for desire(they say) leads to pain.
    Now, having said that, I’m no Buddhist–in fact, I’m willing to say right now, that I LOVE desire. That desire, even when it’s over something, or some state, or some person I cannot “have”, is worth it, because yes, sometimes desire CAN lead to sorrow…but it can also lead to great joy!And to motivation(gaining more education for example)insight(WHAT do I desire, and WHY, etc…).
    Peace, ya’ll.


  20. MELEAH:
    It’s hard to change it though, isn’t it? At the moment I just feel so powerless. A lot of things like the economy, money and so on are getting me down. I wish I could change my line of thinking. But it’s hard. Self-belief is tough when you’re broke. Hopefully, things will improve soon!

    Thanks so much for that insight. I didn’t know that about the Buddhists. Very enlightening.


  21. I’ve found that relaxing back into sorrow – not fighting it – causes profound insights and helps me to tune into all of humanity (the collective unconscious if you want to be Jungian). It can be a very deep, profound and meaningful experience. Accepting sometimes we are up and sometimes down is what life is all about. Nobody can realistically expect to be positive and happy all the time – things do happen in life to bring us down. But, as you are saying, your perspective on it all is the important thing.

    I call it beautiful sorrow 🙂 It led me to see the beauty of love and joy.


  22. ZENURIA:
    So nice of you to stop by. There is a great deal of truth and wisdom in what you say. It confirms what I’ve thought for a while, that experiencing sorrow isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but a thing that can lead to much growth. Thank you for your very insightful comment.


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