Your Saudade

Inspiration for when you feel stuck. I wrote this piece one month into the 2020 Covid quarantine, during the spring season.

The other morning, as I was OM-ing myself to inner bliss on my yoga mat, I listened to a band called Hammock. They are an ambient post-rock band that writes music for rest. Their newest album, released in Nov. 2019, contains a song called “Saudade.”

I instantly recognized the word — I’ve seen in on Pinterest a hundred times. It’s of Portuguese or Latin origin, and it describes a state of grief over the loss of something, or someone, while simultaneously holding great hope for the future. Sometimes the grief is for something never experienced but that the heart knows exists — an unrequited longing of the soul. Saudade is an ultimate contradiction, a juxtaposition between Great Grief and Great Hope.

As I type these words, I observe outside a Great Hope: pregnant spring whose water is ready to burst. Birth, resurrection, a promised land, spiritual fulfillment — a holy season of celebration by both the religious and non-religious alike, applauded by the pinks and oranges now watercoloring the natural world. Yet the celebration is preceded by pain, death, a leaving behind, or the emptiness of fasting.

Without the lack, could one ever fully savor the fulfillment? I suppose this is the deepest principle of saudade.

As a mental health counselor, people come to me, stuck. They are in a state where the walls of their pain are so fortified that they cannot find a way to get out. I try to help them realize that healing often comes by understanding and embracing contradiction — to be able to respectfully be in the space of what was while showing them the way to what will be.

I wonder, friend, if you are in a place of saudade. Looking outside the windows of your space, or up from your phone (whatever the case may be), feeling so stuck. Wryly realizing how much you missed the simple things of before — like getting coffee with friends — and longing for all the things you are going to do when you are free.

It’s okay to acknowledge what you’ve lost. To grieve it. To feel fear or tension when you reflect back on how life and work used to be just weeks ago, knowing that it may never be that way again. Acknowledging your grief honors what was. All the light of it and all the shadow — it is a part of you that has been lost. And if you are covered in grief, it’s just as okay to push back the folds of sorrow and bathe yourself in the sunshine of hope.

It’s even okay to do both at the same time.

What is one thing — one moment — you can allow today to honor what you’ve lost?

What is one thing — one decision you can make — to take a step toward your tomorrow?

Inspiration for when you feel stuck, by author Amy O'Hana. This piece was written one month into the 2020 Covid quarantine, during spring.

My step tomorrow will be to head back to my yoga mat before I sit down at my computer. I’ll allow some moments for peaceful reflection and set intention for my day. I’ll stay there as long as I need to, and I’ll return there throughout the day if the day begs for it. I might even stream Hammock. The emails and crises will wait.

My saudade. What’s yours?


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