As a child the concepts of happiness and sadness seem so basic. Then you grow up and learn a thousand different words to describe your feelings - you realize just how complicated it all is.
It's hard enough sometimes to understand your own emotions, let alone understand those of the people you love. You'll never truly know the feelings of someone else because they aren't your feelings. The best you can do is guess based on the bits and pieces they choose to show you.
This is why it's always so shocking to hear about the suicide of someone who you and everyone else assumed was happy. I was shocked when I heard Robin Williams died yesterday.
We all wrestle with demons, but few broadcast it. When you're depressed the last thing you want to do is pull back the curtain and expose yourself. Doing so could open you up to more hurt. So we find safety in solitude. We lie in the trough of our mind, wallowing in our own sadness.
What can we each individually do about this sadness - our own and that of others? For me, it all boils down to one guiding principle: be present.
When you're feeling down, be present with yourself and your emotion, accept it, observe it. Don't fight it by pretending it doesn't exist. When you acknowledge your feelings you begin to understand them.
After you first acknowledge it to yourself, go and acknowledge it with someone you love and trust. This can be tricky, but I believe one of the most important things in life is fostering the types of relationships that give you the freedom to be your true and honest self.
That relationship - that truth and acknowledgement - goes both ways. You might not ever be able to truly know what is in the heart of your friend, but you can be present with them. Ask them how they're doing and be there for them when they reach out. When you're with them, be with them. Your attention, your ear, your shoulder might be just what they need right now.
When you are present you can be the light that guides the way towards a better, more loving, world.
We are in control over how we react to punches life throws at us. We have that power.
We are in control over how we react to those we love. We have that power.
With great power comes great responsibility. Use that power to create as much light as possible.