I have a lot of feelings. Like, mountains of feelings. And regardless of what people might say, they are not flimsy or aimless — I feel on purpose and with purpose and I don’t take kindly to people who say I’m emotional because I’m a writer or an artist or an attention-seeker or because I was never able to fully shake the teenage-screamo-music-angst from my skin. I feel in big, sleep-consuming ways; this isn’t something I can shake and I don’t think it’s something that I need to or have to or should shake. It’s who I am and I’m proud of the fact that I feel so much.
The simple truth is that I like feelings. I like how they make me feel alive and connected to things and people. I like how they make me feel like more than just skin and synapse, more than just another pulse on the conveyor belt. I like that I tear up when I see someone violently pulverizing barely-blossomed daffodils in a neighbor’s yard. I like that I yelp for joy when the inspirational teacher in a movie wins over a student or a school district or a city. I like that I get angry about jokes about gender or race or class and I like that I’m not silent about this anger. Why should I be? Why should I be silent about the ways in which this world moves me: to love to rage to exultation to shame?
Because I want to be moved: fully, completely. I want to wake up in the morning knowing that I’m going to feel something, that I’m going to sink my teeth deeply into the belly of this life, that I am going to express myself with honesty and conviction. And sometimes this means that I spend an hour or two curled up in my bed crying over youtube clips of spoken word poetry. Sometimes it means that I’ll grab a friend and run toward the nearest swingset in the rain and other times it means that I will write someone I miss a letter that I will never send.
When a feeling comes on, I welcome it with open arms. I make room for every shade of that feeling, every hue. Sadness isn’t just sadness but grieving, longing. Happiness isn’t just happiness but jubilation, rejoicing, fulfillment. I make a home for these feelings, allowing them space in my heart and my mind. Not forever, but enough to let them coarse through my veins until I feel cleansed. And sometimes they stay for far too long and sometimes they leave too soon, but I’ve learned to be flexible, to allow for their spontaneity.
Feelings can crush us in two ways: they can terrify us into suppressing them or they can intoxicate us and leave us ravaged when they leave. It’s important to know how to feel feelings and not misuse them or warp them into something that they aren’t. And I’m not saying that the only way to process feelings is by screaming them to the world through impassioned op-eds or ultra-violet love letters or breaking down into tears on the subway, but what I am saying is to allow yourself to feel what you feel when you feel it and no matter how maddening or marvelous, to know that all feelings pass: sometimes quickly, sometimes achingly.
Feeling does not make me crazy. It doesn’t make you crazy, either. But not feeling things for fear of being told that you’re overreacting or being too emotional? That sounds crazy to me. Besides, who gets to decide what “overreacting” means anyway? Whether it’s Britney shaving her head or me crying whenever Tami Taylor says something beautiful (which is always) or you with your Cheshire grin every time you see your sister dance, we are all on the verge of breaking down in some way: into joy, sadness, love. So I say break down if you need to, squeeze your feelings close to your chest. Permit them room to breathe. Let them inhabit you for a while but don’t let them possess you. And when it’s time for them to go, do so with grace and courage. Know that they’ll return again some day. Accept them. Let them nourish you like rain filling in the cracks of all your desert parts.