I can be super emotional. I honestly didn’t even know this about myself until about a year ago, when my dad (who I call a “zen master”) said something like “Sometimes I feel like maybe I’m a bad person, because I’m not as deeply affected by things as you are.” That put it into perspective to me, for I find my dad to be incredibly empathetic. I am empathetic even with situations that don’t relate to me personally. The best example of this is here, but I also deeply connect with this character’s description here, and the long quote in large font here.
I’ve noticed that in the last few months I’ve barely cried. I was a little depressed in the winter/spring. (I should mention, that depression to me is not sadness, it’s absence of feeling, which makes me feel alive and connected.) It was mainly winter blues, but partly because I have no fucking idea what I’m doing with my life – something I now find to be a blessing.
You don’t think in depression that you’ve put on a gray veil and are seeing the world through the haze of a bad mood. You think that the veil has been taken away, the veil of happiness, and that now you’re seeing truly. It’s easier to help schizophrenics who perceive that there’s something foreign inside of them that needs to be exorcised, but it’s difficult with depressives, because we believe we are seeing the truth. (Soloman)
I cried on March 31st when I shared the dullness I was experiencing with my dad, finally admitting to myself that I need to take my emotional health into my own hands and get myself to a better place. I stopped distracting myself with TV and wine, I surrounded myself with great friends, and I started meditating and doing yoga. And miraculously, on April 17th I found myself literally dancing in the woods out of happiness! It’s the fastest and most dramatic recovery I’ve ever experienced!
I cried on my birthday. The good kind of cry. I used to get bummed out by my bday, because I think of it as a day where I should get to do what I want, yet that’s rarely the case. This year was one of my fave bdays ever! I threw myself a small party and had friends over for champagne cocktails, pizza, and cake. Exactly what I wanted. See how happy I am? My dear friend Ikram gave me a card and wrote this poem in it. All the feels took over me!
Was passt, das muss sich ründen,
by Adolph Selmnitz (see full poem here)
What suits has to round/form each other
I’m so embarrassed to share this, but this video of Obama singing Amazing Grace at the funeral for those killed in the Charleston church massacre made me tear up at my desk. I tend to remain neutral to politicias. But Obama’s been pretty damn impressive. This video made me cry because it’s so rare that a person in a powerful leadership position shows such genuine empathy. All politicians kiss babies, but this dude mourned in public. Now that I think about it, he’s been the most authentic politician I’ve been exposed to. He adheres to his values despite the potential dissent from the masses. That’s admirable.
Selmnitz, Adolph. Den Mond Wollt’ Ich Dir Schenken Poetische Präsente. Comp. Hans-Peter Kraus and Werner Schmitt. on Demand, 2015. Print.
Solomon, Andrew. “Depression, the Secret We Share.” TED. Oct. 2013. Web. 30 June 2015. <https://www.ted.com/talks/andrew_solomon_depression_the_secret_we_share?language=en>.
“The weight of the world is on my shoulders today. Can happiness and joy ever be as colassal as the devastation that earthquakes, tsunamis, terrorism, and oppressive governments incite? I hope so. Watching the news was a bad idea for me.”
I remember this day clearly. I looked at a website that showed an overview of 2011 in 50 pictures. I cried more than I ever have in my life. In my bedroom. In the shower. On the phone. On my way to Montrose beach. While watching a cyclocross competition. I listened to M83 on repeat, which validated how cosmic my feelings were. I’ve never felt so distrusting of the world, and of life.
That disappointment of life is still true today, but I think differently, and my focus has totally shifted. It’s strange: I completely understand how I felt that day, but I’m also not that person anymore.
I don’t shy away from crying in public. Strange? Yes. Even stranger? I see beauty in it. It’s a juxtaposition: a display of intensely private emotions in public where people tend to be emotionally sheltered. I kind of like that idea. I like to break the facade of calm we all display to the world. Putting something emotional and deep in something as mundane as your morning commute kind of reminds us of our nature, our humanity. Crying is something we all do, but rarely share. And why not? I tend to see emotions as inherently valuable, and central to the human experience. Emotions, especially ones strong enough to incite tears, are the effect of being moved by something. And that’s beautiful to me.
Or maybe it’s that in some ways I’m alone in my experience; I’m the only one feeling what I’m feeling, and thinking what I’m thinking, but there are people all around me, inches away. In some ways it’s isolating, but I also feel so close, so human. Maybe the exposure to the chaos of the world is what makes crying beautiful. Chaos, the reminder that everyone has their own stories, on their own missions, yet somehow they’re all here together, right now, waiting for the bus. It’s so fucking beautiful.
Also, read this.
“How should we be able to forget those ancient myths that are at the beginning of all peoples, the myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us. So you must not be frightened if a sadness rises up before you larger than any you have ever seen; if a restiveness, like light and cloudshadows, passes over your hands and over all you do. You must think that something is happening with you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand; it will not let you fall. Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any miseries, or any depressions? For after all, you do not know what work these conditions are doing inside you.”
– Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke
Restive – feeling bored or impatient while waiting for something to happen or change; stubbornly resisting control; marked by impatience or uneasiness.
Restive. That is so my life right now. I kinda really like being 27.7 years old. I’m so free. The only thing I’m responsible for is me. (And him, but you know.) There are absolutely no restrictions on where I live and what I do, and I’m so eager to change it all up. I’m more aware of the options than I was earlier in my 20s, and I have more resources with which to pursue them. I know myself better – my preferences, strengths, and weaknesses – and I’ve learned to trust my judgement. Plus I’m hyper aware of the passing of time, and how much of it we have, but also how little of it we have. I’m actively thinking about my life choices, rather than passively accepting my situation. I find myself looking back to my childhood, and remembering what I thought or hoped my adulthood would be like. Right now I’m in that sweet spot where I’m old enough to compare my childhood expectations to my reality, but there’s still a lot that’s flexible, and I can change what I want. Empowered may be a good word for it, if my focus wasn’t a bit ADD. Right now I’m kinda drowning in choices, not sure which objective to pursue first, or how.
But, I think I just decided to book a big trip to Australia and Fiji for fall/winter 2015. So that’s pretty good.
- A husband setting up the Christmas decorations because he knows it’ll make his wife happy when she returns home from work.
- A grandson making a fuss about fixing the toilet seat just because his grandma’s fussing about it.
- This tragedy, and realizing how easily that could have been my step-cousin. Those men were other people’s family.
- The lyrics of this song (click above to play).
- The fact that my mom was sick for days and I didn’t even know because I was so caught up in my own life.
- Clearing out voicemail messages from T over the years. (He used to save every text message in which I said I loved him, so much that his phone often didn’t have space for incoming text messages. I have to share this to prove I’m not the only sappy one.)
- How beautiful the morning sun looks on my yoga mat as I sit in child’s pose.
This is more than normal for me. Weird.
I wonder how common this frustration is. Everyone always tells everyone, “you’ll be ok.” But that’s not always true. Some people have mental breakdowns, or are chronically depressed. Some people die young, and others live long painful lives from the inside of a hospital room. Some people lose their homes, and their faith in humanity along with it. Some people commit suicide, and others stay bitter their whole lives. That’s not “ok”.
‘Do you think any good can come from your father’s death?’
‘Do I think any good can come from my father’s death?’
‘Yes. Do you think any good can come from your father’s death?’
I kicked over my chair, threw his papers across the floor, and hollered, ‘No! Of course not, you fucking asshole!’
That was what I wanted to do. Instead I just shrugged my shoulders.
My dad says that sadness is a perspective, and I can change my perspective. But that’s only partially true, I think. Everything is a matter of perspective, but I lost something I cared about, something I gave my all to, something I thought was great (even if it wasn’t), and that is sad. I don’t want a different way of seeing it. I just want to grieve, feel the pain, express the pain, acknowledge the pain. Yes, I want to feel better about it, but forcing a change of perspective would be choking on a lie. It’s a delusion. A man that’s blinded may find a way to live beautifully, but it doesn’t change the fact that he lost the gift sight. Other wonderful things may come with that loss, but the loss is still very real. I’d rather work through the painful loss and acknowledge it than deny or mitigate it.
Pain demands to be felt.
(The Fault in our Stars)
Think about it: war veterans, rape survivors, people that were abused as children… they find it incredibly difficult to live fully until they face what happened to them, admit it, and share it with someone. Pain demands to be felt. That’s what we do when we “vent” our daily frustrations with our friends/family. Expressing our irritation with a dreary commute or a rude coworker allows us to let go of it. It brings to mind the idea of “dancing it out”. Lame Grey’s Anatomy reference, but the idea is true. Meredith & Christina “dance it out” when their personal and professional lives are so f*cked up that they don’t know what to do about it:
People always say that when one door closes another opens, and while that’s true, it doesn’t erase the pain of what was lost. I could say that if T and I didn’t break up, I wouldn’t have planned to be abroad for so long, and I wouldn’t have had time to visit the Maldives and fall in Love. That’s true. But it’s also true and sad that the love I shared with T ended. I like this perspective. It’s not blindly positive, but balanced and real. Just like when Uncle Sharif died, and I couldn’t stop crying on the day we visited his grave; I kept saying “I’m ok, I’m ok,” through my tears. I was ok. It hurts, and it’s hard, and it hurts you Dad to see me struggle. But it’s ok. Most days aren’t painful. But even when I’m hurting, I am ok. I am ok and hurt.
The video above is from the movie Garden State in which Andrew Largeman reconciles with his estranged father when he returns home for his mother’s funeral. As a child, he accidentally caused his mother’s paralysis when he pushes her and she falls (on the open dishwasher door – the latch he refers to). Here he chooses to stop numbing his pain through psych meds, and experience life as it is.
“Crash Into Me (Part 1)” Grey’s Anatomy. ABC. KABC, Seattle. 22 Nov 2007. Television.
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Boston, Mass.: Houghton Mifflin, 2005. 205. Print.
The Fault In Our Stars. Dir. Josh Boone . Perf. Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort. Temple Hill Entertainment, 2014. Film.
Later that year, when snow started to hide the front steps, when morning became evening as I sat on the sofa, buried under everything I’ve lost…
I’m re-reading one of my favourite books. I consider my favourite book characters, Leo, Alma, and Oscar, to be my friends. My friends are all sad, because they all lost their favourite person, their greatest love. And I did too. I’m not so much sad; at this point I’m simply disappointed (and unfortunately, angry). But I’m sad that love ends, and people die, and that love doesn’t always conquer all. These are hard lessons for me. I, like my friends, search for an understanding that may not exist, in a deep and compulsive way.
Some of the similarities between us are shocking, such as Oskars’ grandmother who asked her father to write her a letter for no reason other than to study his handwriting; I’ve done the same. And Alma, who wore her dead father’s sweater for 43 days straight; I’ve done the same.
The next morning I told Mom I couldn’t go to school again. She asked what was wrong. I told her, “The same thing that’s always wrong.” “You’re sick?” “I’m sad.” “About Dad?” “About everything.” She sat down on the bed next to me, even thought I knew she was in a hurry. “What’s everything?” I started counting on my fingers: “The meat and dairy products in our refrigerator, fistfights, car accidents, Larry-” “Who’s Larry?” “The homeless guy in front on the Museum of Natural History who always says ‘I promise it’s for food’ after he asks for money.” She turned around and I zipped her dress while I kept counting. “How you don’t know who Larry is, even though you probably see him all the time, how Buckminster just sleeps and eats and goes to the bathroom and has no raison d’être, the short ugly guy with no neck who takes tickets at the IMAX theatre, how the sun is going to explode one day, how every birthday I always get one thing I already have, poor people who get fat because they eat junk food because it’s cheaper . . . ” That was when I ran out of fingers, but my list was just getting started, and I wanted it to be long, because I knew she wouldn’t leave while I was still going. ” . . . domesticated animals, how I have a domesticated animal, nightmares, Microsoft Windows, old people who sit around all day because no one remembers to spend time with them and they’re embarrassed to ask people to spend time with them, secrets, dial phones, how Chinese waitresses smile even when there’s nothing funny or happy, and also how Chinese people own Mexican restaurants but Mexican people never own Chinese restaurants, mirrors, tape decks, my unpopularity at school, Grandma’s coupons, storage facilities, people who don’t know what the Internet is, bad handwriting, beautiful songs, how there won’t be humans in fifty years-” “Who said there won’t be humans in fifty years?” I asked her, “Are you an optimist or a pessimist?” She looked at her watch and said, “I’m optimistic.” “Then I have some bad news for you, because humans are going to destroy each other as soon as it becomes easy enough to, which will be very soon.” “Why do beautiful songs make you sad?” “Because they aren’t true.” “Never?” “Nothing is beautiful and true.”
Paris is beautiful. Every inch of it. So beautiful it hurts. I’m hesitant to say it, but I’m always sad in Paris. I remember this from my last visit, and it’s true now. Sometimes all I can do is sit in the sun and wait for it to pass.
I like the Rodin museum at least as much as I liked it the first time. There’s such expression dans les visages des figures. They look like they’ve had hard lives. Strong backs, remnants of heavy burdens. Broad shoulders that bear life’s troubles. Austere expressions, covered faces, arms reaching for something that isn’t there. But maybe my eyes see what my heart feels.
In some ways I feel like I am a collector of sadness. It’s not so much that I see sadness as profound, but more that it’s often hidden. And when it’s not, it’s often denied or ignored. Being authentic is difficult. It’s hard to be authentic with oneself, and even harder to be authentic with others. I’ve written a lot on this trip, yet I’ve shared so little.
People say they care. They say, “I wish she reached out,” “I would have tried to help,” “doesn’t she know how much she’s loved?” But that’s not true, it’s a lie. I’ve reached out, and I’m told it’s my “faulty opinion” (spit on that, and change that p to an h), “don’t think like that,” “it’ll pass,” or “you’re all right,” as if it’s that easy, as if I wouldn’t do that if I could, as if misery is a choice. Or I’m downright ignored. Surrounded by people, yet ultimately alone, for no one actually wants to have the deep conversations, share or even acknowledge the scary thoughts, unanswerable questions, hurtful emotions. No. We’re content to distract out minds with TV and alcohol, cover our puffy red eyes with makeup and fake smiles, continually deluding ourselves. I’d rather be miserable and on my own than blind to it.
I see my friends deny their pain. Rather than admitting that a breakup hurts, they put on a stoic face and act like they don’t care. One friend in particular I’ve seen go through several breakups, and I’ve seen how it’s worn her down over the years. Many times she’s mentioned a person she’s had a date with and was excited about, only for it to end soon after. Now she doesn’t even mention when she has a date, or even several successful dates, for fear of having to say “it didn’t work out” upon our next encounter. She doesn’t let herself get excited or hopeful; she expects disappointment. She is strong. Immensely strong. But she is incredibly fragile in her core. Her heart has been damaged by heartbreak, but instead of acknowledge it and repair it, she’s built a fortress of protection around the broken pieces. She boarded up her pain, covered it up so that no one can see. And yet, it’s painfully obvious. Maybe if she didn’t deny her hurt, we could help each other navigate our pain. Once, when my depression had obviously lifted, she said “I could tell you were depressed, and I’m so happy you’re doing better!” I was surprised that she was aware of the depression, but I was deeply deeply hurt that though she knew it, she didn’t say anything. Why do we talk about sadness only in the past tense, when we can only help it in the present? Why are so many people suffering alone?
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. New York City: Houghton Mifflin, 2005. Print.
First photo of a statue in the gardens by le Louvre, sculptor unknown; all others by Rodin.
As much has this has hurt (
past tense!? not quite) I’m doing so much better this time. Mostly. I crack sometimes, still. And I’m still sensitive to stress. My tolerance and patience is short lately, because I’m already emotionally burdened. I can handle the work stress, I can handle the moving stress, and the vacation-planning stress (1st world problem alert, but yea, this does exist). I cannot handle the sister-stress, or the friend stress.
I honestly don’t remember what it was like when Josh and I broke up. There’s a mental blank there. I remember bonding with Flora, Tracy, Emily, and Elsie shortly after it happened. I remember taking my time with telling my family. I remember Armstead visiting every weekend, and going dancing constantly with Kevin. Maybe that was it; I surrounded myself with new friends and danced it out. With him there was nothing to figure out, nothing to think about, no unanswered questions. We had held on long enough that by the time we broke up, I had truly accepted that we didn’t work well together. So it was simply a matter of picking myself up and moving on. There was no ruminating, no analyzing, no moving backwards. Just dancing and having fun.
With Jesse all I remember is intense pain. And my mom showing up for me, catching me like a knight in shining armour. She really proved herself to me, in a way that had never even occurred to me. There were a lot of questions, a lot of unnerving thoughts, a lot, a lot of hurt.
This time it’s been… unsteady. It was really hard until I decided to side with myself, validate my own feelings, and move on. Since then I’ve been mostly good. Infusing good habits in my daily life. Surrounding myself with new friends (why is it that each breakup brings a surge to my social life?). Not so much dancing this time, but lots of time in parks, lots of time in the sun. Distracting myself in good ways. So good, I wonder how much of a facade it is. But it’s not. It’s hard some days, and I’ve had moments like this (skip to 1:45), and the additional stress of life can be weighty sometimes. But yes, good.
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