“If you hold back on the emotions–if you don’t allow yourself to go all the way through them–you can never get to being detached, you’re too busy being afraid. You’re afraid of the pain, you’re afraid of the grief. You’re afraid of the vulnerability that loving entails. But by throwing yourself into these emotions, by allowing yourself to dive in, all the way, over your heard even, you experience them fully and completely.”
― Mitch Albom, Tuesdays With Morrie
The tears collected at the edge of my eyes. I tilted my head up, with the hope that my tears would return home. It didn’t work. Within a few minutes, my face looked like I walked through a full-service car wash, my foundation, eyeliner, and lipstick mixing together like a unique abstract painting. Sniffling, I reach for the last Kleenex on my boss’s desk. She stared. I tried to keep it together, but my contacts felt like sticky pancakes in my eyes and my mouth felt dry as if I spent the night in the desert for a few days. I tasted my salty tears and smelled the faint trace of my perfume that I sprayed in the morning.
In my late twenties, I reacted in a way I did not intend. But I’ve never mastered the art of controlling my emotions. Although it is rare that I burst into tears in an employment setting, I tend to still let my emotions spill. In conversations with my sister or mom, I may get angry, we may argue, and days will pass where the lines of communication are placed on mute. Within a few days, our interactions return to normal. I grew up in a household where even a tiny prick to our spirits unleashed a waterfall of varying emotions.
In social settings, I am not inclined to mask what I am feeling. A few times, those around me, have suggested I “go with the flow” or keep a “poker face,” but I tend to exercise my voice and reveal my opinions or emotions that the subject might evoke. This places me in a particular vulnerable position, where my emotions tend to navigate the direction of a conversation. If someone says something negative, I gravitate toward defending myself. If a person is complimentary, I am effusive with my gratitude. If I am witnessing a particularly sentimental moment with my daughter, I will smear a stray tear from my cheek. I am not afraid to tell people I love them or openly comfort and listen to a friend. When the moment warrants it, I talk about my father and what he did and how much I miss him. I often joke with my family, that “I am emotionally adventurous.”
This excess, I’ve learned, is as essential to my well-being and to my craft. As twenty-something I did not understand why I could not gather my emotions and corral them like crumbs under a napkin. Now I understand these emotional fragments drive my need to write and nourish my need to excavate my emotions. Anais Nin describes it the best, “You must not fear, hold back, count or be a miser with your thoughts and feelings. It is also true that creation comes from an overflow, so you have to learn to intake, to imbibe, to nourish yourself and not be afraid of fullness. The fullness is like a tidal wave which then carries you, sweeps you into experience and into writing. Permit yourself to flow and overflow, allow for the rise in temperature, all the expansions and intensifications. Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them.”