I write this article for anyone who is currently going through the doldrums. I know there are many who bravely put on a face for society while feeling the weight of the world. These are the times we all go through; yet for people who are currently going through the storms, no amount of me toos can give comfort to their anguish or give company to their solitude. So I pass on these words not to tell you everything is going to be OK but to encourage you to embrace the very pains you might be feeling at this moment.
I know it might sound counterintuitive, how are we to revel in sorrow as if misery is something to be enjoyed like music. But after spending most of my life running from painful experiences and smiling in order to mask over tear drops, I have come to the realization that it’s better to feel sadness than to feel absence. This lesson was imparted to me by a Vietnam War veteran who I had the honor of interviewing when I was going through my own time of darkness.
Lieutenant Colonel Rick Belt told me during a video interview I conducted in Fort Collins, Colorado (see video below) that one must embrace hardships. When he first passed on this wisdom, his words did not really sink in and I responded that things eventually get better if we just endure. He stopped me before I could finish my sentence and said “no Teddy, actually you must embrace the painful moments; savor and enjoy the bad experiences as much as you enjoy the good times.”
At first I was taken aback, how is one supposed to enjoy pain I wondered. But Rick went on to tell me that life can’t be appreciated in pieces; we have to count our blessings during the winters and the spring. When explained it that way, it made perfect sense. Sadness is to joy as the day is to midnight and tribulation is to good fortune as the calm is to monsoons. Life is a duality; if we did not have one, we would not be thankful for the other. If not for the rain, we would curse the sun. Click To Tweet
If only I realized this when I was younger! The first time I broke up with an ex from college—shrouded by sadness—I walked into an Ethiopian restaurant to order food and contemplate my next steps. As I sat at the bar waiting for doro wot (Ethiopian chicken stew), I turned around and noticed a middle age guy staring off into space while drinking a beer. The song Tizita by Mahmoud Ahmed was playing in the background, his entire spirit was reeking with deep ennui and his spirit was emitting heartbreak.
At that exact moment, I made a decision that would haunt me for the next ten years. I told myself I was never going to be that guy and went out to party. I went from broken heart to big pimping instantly. Without ever giving myself a chance to grieve, I buried my heart and others parts of me in an endless stream of dates and rendezvous. Yet the more I chased flesh, the more I found unhappiness. Carnal pleasures bereft of love is a cup that never runeth over.
This same conniption to run away from painful experiences was the reason I never fully grieved the passing of my father. Witnessing my dad pass away from lung cancer and the trauma of doctors and blue light enveloping him as he struggled to breath through tubes is a memory that rocked me into denial. I learned to compartmentalize injurious moments and not deal with them at all. I found my solace in making people smile; giving to others was my way of not facing my own demons. Alas, those things you run from become the prison that keep you in place no matter how far you go. You can’t take your way out of deficit and you can’t give your way out of anguish. We can only mend by facing our wounds and feeling all the emotions—healing is a process.
It’s only once my life crumbled and I found myself in a mission in Wellington, Colorado that I finally stopped running. I was forced to face myself; there was no one else I could help so I had to help myself. Rick’s lessons served as a crystallizing moment for me during this journey; I realized avoiding sadness is a woe unto itself. The incessant need to be happy is a reason why too many of us end up being depressed. Learn to be in the moment and if the moment is not so pleasant, find music even during times of barrenness. This is not to suggest you force happiness, I’m just saying do not be fearful of life’s turbulence.
The title of this article its tizita and deta for a reason; tizita means memories in Amharic and desta means happiness. For too long, I kept chasing desta as I refused to feel tizita. Now I realized that tizita and desta are a twin package, you can’t have happiness without the the memories of past sadness. It’s only after going through the fire that we learn to be thankful by comparison. There is no fast forward button in life and we should be eternally grateful for it. Wounds hurt but eventually they form scars—it’s those scars that give our lives meaning. #Tizita2Desta
“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
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Check out the Ghion Cast where I interviewed Vietnam War veteran Rick Belt during my stay at Harvest Farm Colorado. Ghion Journal would not have been possible had it not been for the hardships I faced. Adversity have a purpose.
Check out this Ghion Cast below where I discuss how we can all impact one another for the positive by sharing our stories, it’s kindness and love towards one another that can bend the arc of history towards justice.
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.
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