I’m a big fan of cartoons, and over the years I’ve had lots of favorites: Mickey Mouse, Sunshine Bear, Cinderella, Snorks (that’s how old I am!), Chip and Dale (shorts and Rescue Rangers), Aladdin (in the movie), Iago (in the cartoon series), Beast, Dumbo, Ace from G-Force (the only anime cartoon I ever liked), Baloo (in Tale Spin), Ariel . . . on it goes. But if I had to live my life with only one character ever, it would be Eeyore.
Eeyore has always been my favorite because he has always seemed the most real. Eeyore has feelings. Granted, he’s pretty much sad, but that’s still much more relatable than always giddy-cheerful. All the other characters are either happy all the time or trying to get happy. The thing about Eeyore is that even though he’s sad, he’s okay with it.
Poor Eeyore. Always plodding along in the Hundred Acre Wood with that little cloud over his head. Life always seems to rain on his little parade: his tail falls off, his house caves in, Tigger bounces him around . . . and he’s always wet from his pursuing precipitation. He feels overlooked and forgotten, and just expects bad things to happen.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Eeyore lately. Anyone who lives in Hollister knows that it’s been an especially rainy spring. It’s mid-May in central California, it should be in the 80s, and it didn’t quite hit 70 today. More than once in the last two weeks there has been a fully operating storm cloud set squarely over our little town, and only over our little town. Most of the time, you can easily see the bright sunshine at either end of the cloud. Here is what I saw over Hollister as I drove home on Monday afternoon. I rest my case.
The thing is, it’s not just the rain. Dumb stuff just keeps happening. It’s been the sort of month when nothing seems to quite fall into place, like when you’re trying to glue a broken piece of ceramic together and you know you have all the pieces and there shouldn’t be any cracks but there are because you can’t quite shift the pieces into perfect alignment. It’s not that things are bad, it’s just that lots of little things keep my life from running as smoothly as I’d like it to. My cat peed on my couch (again), I was seven cents short of my sandwich, my phone wasn’t sending text messages to certain people, my car is still dripping power steering fluid all over the place, the dishes don’t wash themselves . . . stuff like that. Eeyore kind of stuff following me around everywhere. And it doesn’t seem to be just me. Where passion was burning everywhere I looked 2 months ago, now it seems that exhaustion is spreading like a virus.
This blog entry is a good example of my ellipses of a self, because I don’t have an ending to these thoughts yet. As I gnaw on my thoughts, though, my attention turns to sadness. Eeyore is generally considered to be a pretty depressed little donkey. But I disagree. I’ve struggled with depression on and off since I was about 15. Depression is a very dark place; in that hole there is little motivation to stick up for yourself, to fight, to keep moving. Depression is not about feeling sad or even being pessimistic; it’s more about just quitting, as if you’re powered down or at the very least hibernating. It’s not a natural instinct of human nature, to stop fighting. While sadness can be a part of depression, they are two separate things. I don’t think Eeyore is depressed. I think he’s sad, but he’s a fighter.
What people don’t understand about Eeyore is that he’s incredibly and beautifully sarcastic, and he has an answer for everything. From within his sadness comes a wisdom and intelligence that his buddies don’t acquire in their lighthearted world. And Eeyore teaches us . . .
“Good morning, Pooh Bear,” said Eeyore gloomily. “If it is a good morning,” he said. “Which I doubt,” said he.
“Why, what’s the matter?”
“Nothing, Pooh Bear, nothing. We can’t all, and some of us don’t. That’s all there is to it.”
“Can’t all what?” said Pooh, rubbing his nose.
“Gaiety. Song-and-dance. Here we go round the mulberry bush.”
About setting realistic and beneficial goals:
“I’m not asking anybody,” said Eeyore. “I’m just telling everybody. We can look for the North Pole, or we can play ‘Here we go gathering Nuts in May’ with the end part of an ants’ nest. It’s all the same to me.”
“Hallo, Pooh. Thank you for asking, but I shall be able to use it again in a day or two.”
“Use what?” said Pooh.
“What we were talking about.”
“I wasn’t talking about anything,” said Pooh, looking puzzled.
“My mistake again. I thought you were saying how sorry you were about my tail, being all numb, and could you do anything to help?”
“No,” said Pooh. “That wasn’t me,” he said. He thought for a little and then suggested helpfully: “Perhaps it was somebody else.”
“Well, thank him for me when you see him.”
About the need for various kinds of friends (don’t see that one in children’s literature very often!):
It’s Pooh,” said Christopher Robin excitedly…
“Possibly,” said Eeyore.
“And Piglet!” said Christopher Robin excitedly.
“Probably,” said Eeyore, “What we want is a Trained Bloodhound.”
About sticking up for yourself:
“Could you ask your friend to do his exercises somewhere else? I shall be having lunch directly, and don’t want it bounced on just before I begin. A trifling matter, and fussy of me, but we all have our little ways.”
About the importance of learning, and valuing yourself no matter what anyone else says:
“I’m telling you. People come and go in this forest, and they say. ‘It’s only Eeyore, so it doesn’t count.’ They walk to and fro saying ‘Ha Ha!!’ But do they know anything about A? They don’t. It’s just three sticks to them. But to the Educated – mark this, little Piglet – to the Educated, not meaning Poohs and Piglets, it’s a great and glorious A. Not,” he added, “just something that anybody can come and breathe on.”
And even about finding the positive in a long spell of disagreeable weather:
“It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily.
“So it is.”
“Yes,” said Eeyore. “However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.”
I’ve spent a lot of time being sad over the years. I used to run from it, try to avoid it. I used to think that being sad was bad or unhealthy. I don’t think so anymore. There is a difference between sadness and self-pity. Self-pity is the worship of self in times of hardship. But sadness . . . my personal definition for sadness is not the “by the book” definition that resembles depression. My personal definition of sadness is not exactly set in stone, but is loosely along the lines of being aware of a loss or unfulfilled need. This is because it appears to me that Jesus was sad rather often, but I don’t think He was depressed. The Bible uses phrases like “grieved in his heart” rather frequently, and I like the idea of sadness being a version of grief.
I become sad when I am more acutely aware of loss or emptiness in my own life, usually when I’m feeling lonely. But more often I am sad when I am aware of needs around me. God has given me a special awareness of the needs and emotions of others, and my spirit often is grieved when I sense sadness or hopelessness in the people I care about. In my job I am constantly surrounded by little lives that I wish so badly I could just “fix.” Because of this, no matter what my mood or dominant emotion is in the moment there is always a part of me that is somewhat sad.
I used to hate this, to run from it, to think there was something wrong with it. No more. If I am to pray that my heart would break for the things that break God’s heart, for God to show me what He sees in the world, for my heart to be compassionate and sensitive . . . how could I possibly not share His sadness? Unlike Eeyore, I work hard to not roll around and wallow in pessimism. But like Eeyore I am learning to appreciate that life on Earth involves a healthy dose of sadness, both as an observer and a participant.
Because of the wild rain we’ve been having in central California, our draught is finally over. Our reservoir was desperately low 6 months ago, but when we drove by it a few weeks ago the surrounding fields were flooded and the water nearly spilled onto the highway! Because of this rain, we will have green hills for much longer than usual. Hopefully our fields will yield excellent crops. Constant rain is annoying, but at this level it’s not a terrible thing. Looking around the country right now, I’d say there’s nothing to complain about in California.
In the same way, the seemingly endless shower of annoyances dripping on my head over the past few weeks can yield some wonderful results if I allow them to. God takes us through times like these to keep us humble and returning to Him. Through it He teaches us compassion, humility, perseverance, determination, love. Sadness is an emotion, real but fleeting. We are not to fear emotions or give them power over us; we are to embrace them fearlessly, yet live from within the power of the fruit of the Spirit. If I can share His broken heart and still determinately fight for what is right, then I have conquered self-pity and am becoming more and more like my Master. We embrace sadness as part of our life on earth, looking forward to the eradication of heartbreak in Heaven (Revelation 21:4).
Overall, I think Eeyore’s a cool dude. He was satisfied with who he was, stuck up for himself, had a great (albeit dry) sense of humor, and never quit. Above all, Eeyore knew that he belonged. It doesn’t matter how sad you are, if you know where you belong and who you belong to . . . you can do anything!
These thoughts of mine are still developing, and this post definitely ends in an ellipses. How would you finish this thought of mine? Please share!