Is anyone actually capable of following this advice?
I’m genuinely curious, because I’ve never been able to. As a child I would inevitably waste the last day of any family vacation crying because it was ending, and then crying because I was wasting the entire last day crying, and then crying because it was actually over and I had just wasted the entire last day crying.
Of course, that was probably for two reasons: 1) I genuinely found the majority of my day-to-day existence pretty dreary and miserable, not in the “maaan I could sure use a vacation” sense but in the “my classmates and my teachers are bullying me” sense; and 2) as perhaps follows from 1), I had some sort of proto-depression that later became full-blown depression.
Now I cry at the ends of other things, like visits with family or partners, stays in a particular place (moving is horrible for me), jobs and school things, and sometimes relationships (though, by the time they end, I usually don’t care very much anymore).
No matter what the actual thing that’s ending, there’s always this same horror that that might’ve been the last good thing in my life and now there will be no more. It’s not rational; it just is.
“Smile because it happened” assumes that the reason it can or should feel okay for good things to be over is because now you have all those happy memories of them. That might be the case for people who get any joy out of thinking about happy memories. I don’t. My brain immediately jumps to sadness that that thing is over or gone.
That’s why the only thing I can do is just to not think about things that are in the past. (Unless, ironically, they’re uniformly negative, because it doesn’t really make me sad to think about sad things that are over now.) This means I compartmentalize everything and largely avoid thinking about family, friends, or partners who are not here and who I can’t see often, or past vacations that I took, or cool opportunities that I had.
And I probably realize this as these things are ending. I realize that I’ll never be able to think about those happy memories without becoming very sad, so for me, the end of a particular experience is truly the end in a way that it might not be for most people. It’s not just that I won’t get to literally experience that same thing again; I also won’t really get to ever think about or remember it, except in certain controlled ways (and then rarely without tears).
I don’t know if this is a depression thing or a me thing. It doesn’t really make sense outside of the context of depression, though, because I think that a more mentally healthy person would be able to understand that good things will happen again. I am not able to understand that on any sort of serious level. I’m only able to repeat it to myself over and over like I could repeat “Unicorns exist” or “I have a million dollars.”
But then again, maybe if “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” were a thing that normal people could actually do, Dr. Seuss wouldn’t have felt the need to say it.