It’s like the muscles under my breast bone squint, or toke; and then a dense fog from an icy chasm rolls into place beneath them. It goes away. Clears, just the sun burns off the clouds after the storm, but it’s a maroon moment of emotional acknowledgment, my sensors flaring recognition of my co-worker’s sadness.
Samples are taken into the core, the audio is replayed, early analyses are setting off alarms, and even as I try to say something supportive-but-neutral, kind-but-honest, I can feel the shields going up.
I will not utter the words Sad Sack, so my brain won’t stop chanting them: chorus line and neon. I am reaching for a word I don’t have -stops short of pity, but is a judgy, frightened sort of empathy?
I have been hollowed by sadness and overwhelmed at the same time. I have shrugged and said, “Fine. Hopeless it is.” But I can’t sustain it. And when I see hopeless on someone older (shouldn’t they be wiser?), I worry that next time hopeless visits me, I will not be able to overcome it; I get angry that hopelessness doesn’t stir others to action; my chest clenches at the sad thought that perhaps this person hasn’t seen enough of the positive alternatives to believe that any movement toward better will soon feel more desirable than wallowing.
It’s like they tell you, when the water’s cold you just have to start swimming. But no one’s going to come move your arms and legs for you. You can take as long as you need to get started; but don’t be surprised, the tide’s gonna come back in.