Emotions Without Feelings

Arielle recently told me that as an adult, I’m more honest with myself about how I feel. That was weeks ago now, but it’s still ringing in my ears. She was so right.
When I was a kid (I don’t know how old, but at least six), I remember whining to my mom about being bored.
In hindsight, I wasn’t bored at all – I was misinterpreting pain. I really meant that I was hurting inside and I had confused it for boredom.
The truth is, I was not very good at truly feeling my feelings, though I was still heavily affected by them.
This became especially confusing in my adolescence, when I started to become more aware of the concept of falsehood. I would laugh at jokes, I would often cry, I would lash out against injustice, and I was maddeningly jealous (look guys, I admit it, OK?!). There was a part of me that scoffed at my behavior for being so melodramatic because I didn’t actually feel that way…did I? No, I didn’t. I didn’t feel anything at all. Sometimes I would strongly feel rage, depression, and/or passion, but even those I wasn’t very honest with myself about feeling. I would often question myself – why act this way? Am I lying by acting like this? Is it a farce? At the end of the day, it hardly mattered anyway because I couldn’t NOT act that way, even if I tried.
What I didn’t understand was that whether I could sense them or not, I still did, in fact, feel every kind of complex emotion. I was just no good at recognizing them or using them properly.
Having emotions without feeling them was like being washed over by a strong wave that you couldn’t see or feel and was the same temperature as your body. You’re just suddenly being tossed around and you can’t breathe. You may or may not know why. You can’t see what’s pushing you, but you can’t help moving around. And in any case, you’d better figure it out and learn to swim with this unseen current or you’ll be subject to it until you die – which will probably be pretty soon, unless you learn to swim.
I was affected by them, whether I could feel them or not.

I can still be like that sometimes, but now that I’ve learned that:
A) There’s no shame in how you feel; feelings are OK – and not just OK for other people.
B) Honesty really is the best policy.
C) Dealing with it is best. Deal with it. Now. (Brushing it aside is NOT dealing with it.)
I am much more calm.

Now that I’ve gotten those things down and learned what different emotions feel like (which still often takes much concentration), I can allow myself to feel emotions freely. This, in turn, allows room for actual stillness, actual peace to reside in the largest chambers of my being.

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I Went On A Date!

Forgive me, please, I’m just a teensy bit excited. My husband took off the first half of his workday and shipped the kids out of the house so that he could whisk me away on a date this past Wednesday morning. What’s that? Wednesday morning seems an odd time for a date, you say? Why yes, it does seem rather odd, doesn’t it? He chose that time because he had something very specific in mind.

He took me to the University for a concert. This may not seem like an especially nice date to you – and indeed, we ourselves had initially considered it to be “a little nothing of a date,” since it was only two hours (including travel time), at the local university, in the middle of the day, AND FREE – but I assure you that it turned out to be a rather fancy date with world class musicians! These musicians, to be exact:

http://www.dorianwindquintet.org

This was far more than even we ourselves expected! It was nothing short of a marvelous time.

You can find online lists and lists of cheap/free date ideas. Most of the suggestions revolve around good weather and public parks – skating, fishing, hiking – and they always have at least one suggestion of thrift store window shopping (which ARE fun dates, btw. They just aren’t what I’m writing about right now), but I never see them suggest checking out programs at local schools. I think schools and universities are a great suggestion because:

1: Local universities almost always have something going on – art displays in the forms of crafts, performance arts, theater shows, or music shows. Not to mention sports games.

2: Admission is always extremely inexpensive, if not free.

3: Nearly every town is close to SOME kind of university. Even po dunk Ashtabula is right near a branch of Kent State and has a pretty decent Arts Center: http://ashtabulaartscenter.org

4: Academic facilities are very nice and usually have a pretty upscale atmosphere – yet, they’re also full of students. So basically, you could have a very classy date (again, for free!), or a more casual one and either would fit just fine. The “feel” is up to you!

A Pocket Full Of Cat Food

Absolutely every single thing we do has consequences. Absolutely everything. I’m certain that we don’t even know the vast majority of what those consequences are.

I discovered that I have a pocket full of cat food. Slipping and falling down down the stairs was an unintentional consequence of trying to feed the cats. By proxy, getting cat food in my pocket was also an unintentional consequence of trying to feed the cats.

I participated in a simple campaign to raise awareness of the prevalence of rape culture. I expected to face some consequences for it, but those consequences – which was a mixed bag of both good and bad, by the way – were significantly heavier handed than I ever expected.

If you find a butterfly trapped in a spiderweb, you could take compassion on it and choose to set it free. But if you do so, the spider will either starve or catch another butterfly to kill and eat – one that would have otherwise lived. You weren’t trying to starve the spider or to make another butterfly die, but the truth is: someone has to die. Unintentional consequences. (This example is not original with me. It was an example and thought explored in an episode of Trigun)

In certain lighting, it can become easy to look at mankind as a blight on this existence – we consume and expand and insist on thriving. Someone had once said that this is because mankind has successfully removed himself from the food chain – he cannot be destroyed by nature, and therefore he builds and builds until the weight of his building crushes everything around him. This got me thinking about the plights of other species, thinking about why they aren’t the blight that mankind can be. I thought about chimpanzees, to give myself a specific example to consider. They don’t have a whole lot in the way of natural predators, but they do have competition with each other. Why? For scarcity of food. If their family gets too large, then there isn’t enough food and they’ll starve. If they bump into neighboring families, they fight for the right to territories – for the right to eat. All of nature is this way; all creatures struggle and suffer. My point is this: life is struggle and pain. Life is meant to be struggle and pain. This is the nature of Adam’s curse; he didn’t just cause the fall of mankind – he caused the fall of existence. Unintentional consequences. By seeking out comfort beyond just survival, by removing ourselves from the struggles of nature (or attempting to), we have become a burden to the earth. Also unintentional consequences.

Am I saying that we shouldn’t try to survive and keep warm, dry, and fed? That we shouldn’t try to cure diseases? Not at all. I’m simply saying that absolutely everything we do has consequences that extend far beyond our imaginations. We can become outraged over a football player’s political stance, or set ablaze with passion for another, or passion for a cause. But all of these things – good and bad – have an entire string of consequences that can never be fully understood, but are always worth considering. This is one reason why it’s so important to listen earnestly when you come across an opponent – they may see something that you don’t.

This is also why, as Christians, it is so crucial to be deeply in touch with the Holy Spirit, not simply knowing what the Bible says, but also listening carefully to the Holy Spirit that’s been given to us. He is the one who sees the web in its entirety and understands – fully understands – our place in it. It isn’t enough to simply know what the Bible says; we have to learn to listen to the Holy Spirit on a day to day basis. It is, after all, so very easy to plod along, being guided by our passions, when our passions very often sever us from what is right. The positive flip side to this is that God – with whom we get to connect directly – is also an infinite resource: https://rollforrevival.wordpress.com/2017/10/04/entangle-your-gold-mine-part-1/

Healing Feelings

“You’re more honest about your feelings now than you were back then. You’re more authentic now,” she told me. I never really thought about the fact that I was trying to lie about my feelings back then. That got me thinking and remembering: how did I feel then? I was so enraged, writhing in pain, and manically wild. “Wound tight” is a term that comes to mind. That’s a little odd, considering that “authentic” is one of the most common descriptors placed on me by others now, along with terms like: peaceful, calm, easygoing, transparent, and level headed. Those were the things that I wanted to be back then, but wasn’t. I didn’t want to feel rage, jealousy, or even passion (Oh God, that passion. Can you imagine how different things would have been if I had just allowed myself to honestly feel through that passion?! How much easier life would have been?! What a useful tool that would have been?! Instead I was like a sailor roughly coursing my way through a wild, rocky sea, refusing to use the sonar to see the rocks because “I’m tough enough to beat this!” Foolish). So I pretended to not feel them, and instead tried – unsuccessfully – to behave how I thought I *should* behave. Obviously, this caused a certain amount turbulence – which I also pretended either wasn’t there or was someone else’s fault.

Now I allow myself to feel freely and am more honest with myself about my feelings (though my behavior is often quite reserved. What? Did you think this all meant I trust just anybody – that I trust YOU?! HA! I’m more honest with myself. Don’t get me wrong: I’m wholly honest with everyone, but I do still keep my cards close to my chest.). Even if it’s totally irrational, I may tell someone, “I know that there isn’t any good reason, but it’s how I feel, nonetheless.” I’m finally allowed to truly deal with myself and my circumstances. I’m no longer spinning these tires by trying to hold back a train. Rather, I get the train to stop by helping it get to its destination. It’s because I allow myself to feel more honestly that I’m so much healthier.

It’s an odd thing. By allowing myself to be what I didn’t want to be, I became what I craved in the first place.

Music and the Fountain of Youth

“Hey. You look really pretty today. There’s something different about you,” she said to me. She was right. I had a vibrancy and energy that I hadn’t felt in ages. For some years, I had set myself aside almost entirely. For some years, I had sacrificed myself constantly – day and night. For some years, I had aged more than my digits. But not that day, nor for several days prior. That day, I indulged – just a little, and not at the expense of anyone else – in a small secret that I had stumbled upon by mistake.

Like digging up lost, forgotten treasures from a grave – my own grave of a former life, long dead – I pulled from my old, buried bones a trinket of the past. It was the memory of my love for music. I’m not sure what started it, really. For what felt like an eternity, my house was silent to make room for all the noise of children. Forgetting the songs of my heart, my voice went still. And then one day, for no obvious reason at all, music stirred up again, swelling in my heart, and spilling from my throat. With it came cheer, joy, light, vibrancy, energy, smirks, laughter, youth.

She was right. I was younger, brighter, and – in my own self description from back then – colorfully flamboyant. It took me some intense thought to figure out what the difference was. I’m pretty sure the difference is music. This is a new thing that I’ve discovered about myself: that music is life to me, makes me a bit younger. And after some soul searching, I’ve decided that while it’s a little bit of both, it’s more that the music is the cause than it is the symptom – music brought the life, rather than the life bringing music.

I love music. I really do.

Is This the Mountain You Want To Die On?

I had a dream last night that I was laboriously trudging through the heavy snow and quarreling with an indistinct woman. I believe the woman was no one in particular; the dream’s point with her was that she and I did not get along. But together we pulled our gear through the snow, pulling through and up to the inn at the foot of the mountain. We were at the foot of Mount Monadnock, and facing a decision: seek the comfort of the inn, or make the arduous journey to the top. It wasn’t entirely necessary for us to go there, and doing so was dangerous; we would have to survive several days in the harshest winter weather – together. It seemed we did have one thing in common: we both had resolved to make it. This was the mountain I was willing to die on; I was determined to survive.

The dream then melted into an odd surreal scene of me chasing my kids around the tavern and Michael playing music.

Funny thing about the real life Mount Monadnock being so daunting: getting to the top is less of a mountain climb and more of a hill hike. I once climbed it when I was a child. It takes several hours, not several days. Then again, perhaps in the thick New England snowfall, it would take that long. I don’t know. In any case, I recommend looking up Mount Monadnock online. The pictures do not give it the proper scope, but it sure is beautiful.

Today, here I am. I seem to have found myself at the foot of my mountain that I would be willing to die on, and I’m pacing at the foot muttering, “I’m not a climber. I’m not a climber. I’m not a climber.”

Desire…except…

“This isn’t what I wanted, you know. This life that I ended up with. I mean, I kind of assumed that it would be like this, but it certainly wasn’t what I was sitting around daydreaming about,” she said just after taking a drag from the one indulgence she allowed herself and watching its smoke drift upward into the cool night air.

“What did you want, then?” he asked.

“You. Just you. Except without the stigmas, the judgements, or the complexities. I wanted you, but I wanted it to be simple.”

His heart quickened slightly with both pleasure and pain, not only because it stroked his moderate ego, but because it was exactly what he has always wanted too. They both knew that their “if only” will always remain just that. If only.