By Danielle Susi
I am thinking about the many definitions of sadness. Of the many ways in which water flows. How sadness is interpreted and denied and accepted by so many.
I re-read an article from April 2015 titled, “Lake Michigan is so clear right now its shipwrecks are visible from the air.” It goes on to say that the lake is only so clear after all the ice melts and right before algae begins to bloom in the summer. Ghosts can only be seen after everything hard has dissolved. I identify this as a metaphor.
It’s been sunny all day and I have spent most of it indoors wearing sweatpants. I slept in sweatpants, woke up, showered, and put on an identical pair of sweatpants in a different color. I took the trash out to the dumpster only to avoid staying inside all day.
Melissa Broder’s new collection of essays So Sad Today, gets at the roots of depression, anxiety, and not feeling enough. The collection is dark and brutal and funny because Broder asks questions of herself, now made public, that we are often afraid to ask. She confesses things about herself, although confession is not the right word. Confess. There is no great admittance or fault or embarrassment. Only an openness about events and feelings that are part of the modern human experience.
The title of the collection is based on Broder’s Twitter handle of the same name. Tweets contain nuggets such as “sometimes you just have to do what’s worst for you,” “high on regret,” and “your ‘positive energy’ scares the shit out of me.” I’d previously heard of Broder because of her poetry which, like her essays, is personal and raw yet highly refined. Her poems are tight and shaped but retain the existential dread and insatiable hunger of her essays.
So Sad Today begins with “How to Never Be Enough” and ends with “Under the Anxiety Is Sadness but Who Would Go Under There.” Everything in between sifts through deep terror, fantasy, what it means to be alone in modern (mostly privileged, American) society, and the things very sad people are feeling but not often talking about for fear of further isolation or judgment.
Broder talks about guilt and self-punishment in a way I was surprised to relate so closely to. About hating oneself for bingeing on junk food or lacking will power. It’s no secret that I love snacks. I will shovel handfuls of Cheez-Its into that hole in my face and then feel horrible about it an hour later. So horrible that I sometimes get to a point where I, a fairly intelligent human being, will truly begin to believe that I am an idiot with no real right to happiness.
Essentially, Broder gets it. She finally puts down on paper—and in 140 characters or less on Twitter—what it means to feel ugly and sad inside and she does it without hiding or making excuses. I was overwhelmed by this book because I saw a part of myself in it. A part that spends full days in sweatpants and needs to learn to be less psychologically destructive.
Danielle Susi is the author of the chapbook The Month in Which We Are Born (dancing girl press, 2015). Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Knee-Jerk Magazine, Hobart, and The Rumpus, among many other publications. She is a columnist for pioneertown and Entropy; a contributor to American Microreviews & Interviews, The Conversant, and The Angle; and the co-editor of HOUND. She received her MFA in writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Newcity has named her among the Top 5 Emerging Chicago Poets. Find her online at daniellesusi.com.