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Big Happy & Big Sad

Jaimie Malphrus

I’ve made it my life mission to make my home an oasis of peace and tranquility and cute things that make me happy. It’s become almost an obsession, this nesting. The only problem? There is A LOT of stuff. The amount of stuff from two whole adults that have had past relationships and lives. Two adults that were actively planning to “upsize” and move into a much larger place. Obviously, that didn’t happen the way we planned.

I love my little townhome apartment with built-in bookcases and a window seat. Going through every single thing I own (and a lot of stuff that isn’t from my personal past)? That is daunting. And exhausting. And emotional.

David and I both had an obsession with journals. They’re everywhere. One for each show, stage of life, class that were taught and taken, quotes, scrap paper. Everything. It’s been one of the greatest blessings after David passed, to stumble across a journal and find something profound scrawled next to a grocery list.

One of the first journals I found had a beautiful quote that I still think about daily.

“Today was full of grace. Thank you.”

This is written fairly clearly next to a stand-up set list from 2016 that lists “jewish girl (that’s me), pinterest, and calorie counts” as some topics of discussion.

It’s been a while since I found a journal I haven’t read from top to bottom. I can always seem to find something relevant to what is going on in my life or soul and it always comes at exactly the right time (although it might hit me like a ton of bricks).

“Own the room. All of them. Shakespeareland” jotted next to a self-portrait.

“Wine. Time to end,” at the end of a set list.

“How am I being called to action?” randomly between grocery lists.

“Where do I put the pain?” This is written as a note on his play Stages. Where do I put the information that I was in pain? For me, this one took my breath away.

I recently uncovered a couple notebooks unpacking that I hadn’t seen before. I already had a good cry that day, so I just went for it and opened up to a page in the middle. What did I find? A notebook that predates me yet was exactly what I needed at that moment.

A passage that made me feel loved. Seen. Sane. Lucky that we had found each other.

“Are happy relationships even possible? Big Happy and Big Sad? Big Happy comes with Big Sad. The two are linked. Only special people get to experience it. Anyone can lead a long, boring life. Only a select few get to experience Big Happy and Big Sad. Which is better? No better or worse. Only some people can handle it.”

I added grammar… because you know he didn’t.

*Explosion noise in my brain*

HOW is it possible that I find something so profound and helpful just as I’m experiencing a bout of the “Big Sad?” Just… so beautiful. We had so much “Big Happy,” and that’s the reason for the “Big Sad.” The two are linked. And will always be linked.

I would never trade the Big Happy to get rid of my Big Sad.

“Only some people can handle it.”

It may not be pretty. Or smooth. Or remotely easy. It’s the hardest thing in the world. But here I am handling it.

WRITING PUBLICLY about it on my very first solo trip while I write lesson plans for the upcoming school year. At the beach. You know, in true David Lee Nelson fashion.

Even as a dramatically emotional person, I struggle with sharing my feelings. Even to those closest to me. David tends to find me in moments I’m shut down or need some direction with precisely the right words. It’s pretty lucky, honestly. Or maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s exactly when I’m supposed to hear him.


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