The pursuit of sadness…

By Maria Montalvo | Jan 19, 2012

I watched a politician on TV yesterday giving yet another speech about the Declaration of Independence.

He said we were all entitled to our unalienable rights of “life, liberty, and happiness.” Besides being frustrated that a presidential candidate could not accurately quote our country’s establishing document, he missed the most important part of the sentence: “the pursuit of.”

Growing up in Philadelphia, I was pretty familiar with the Declaration.

My brother and I visited it at least once a year. We agreed at a young age that the pursuit was what made anything worthwhile, trying for something was more important than getting it. The struggle, the challenge, the attempt to find the right solution.

My brother and I also knew that most people did not agree with us on this and that was one, of many reasons, why no one understood either of us the way we understood each other.

We were each other’s greatest allies. It gave us the confidence to try anything we wanted and to say anything we thought (not always the best choice).

My brother started skiing on and off of any slope he could find, becoming a well-known extreme skier, and I worked to be successful enough so I could travel the world.

We were both lucky enough to keep a very special circle of friends and to find love.

I remember we would say that we pursue friendship and love and accomplishment so intensely because we felt them so intensely. We were grateful for those who accepted it (and suffered through several heartbreaks from those who could not.)

Was our definition of the pursuit of happiness as was originally intended? Of course.

The Declaration of Independence doesn’t say “life, liberty, and happiness” because “the pursuit of” is different for each American. My brother and I found our own paths, and even though the routes were different, they ran parallel to each other, always overlapping and being reinforced by the other, and always moving toward new things that we thought may bring us joy or even just something different.

My path today is not moving out ahead of me. I know it will again, but on the day my brother died, Tuesday, January 3, everything changed.

I know I will again continue on with my pursuit of happiness, for him and for myself.

My path for happiness has to stay parallel to another one because I don’t know how to exist without it.

It will, perhaps, be my pursuit of sadness.

Not a pursuit of somber isolation or depression, but rather the sadness that represents how much I love and miss my brother and all of the days of happiness I have because of him.

I don’t want to settle into vague recollections or perceive missing pieces.

I want to have him with me every day, as he always has been, and be the sister he loved and was so proud of.

On the day he moved away to the first mountain of many, I wrote him a letter that said, “I wouldn’t be who I am if it were not for you.”

That was true then and is true now. Just recently I spent a whole day with my brother during the Christmas holidays.

When we left, I tried to explain to my husband how I saw that, after all of these years and all of the suits and board meetings and stuffy events, I am still unequivocally my brother’s sister, so much like the extreme skier with the magical personality and hundreds of friends.

I always will be, so I need to learn how to live in the pursuit of happiness and the pursuit of sadness…and do it with intensity.

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