Swallow your feelings. Scoop them neatly and don’t let them spill or leave a stain. Chew them quickly – don’t savor them – just long enough to make them an unrecognizable mush before pushing them down to be dissolved in the acid below. Start small, just the ones you can handle: sadness when someone dies in a movie, anger at tech support. Those are the ones that make sense, that go down smooth.
Others are harder to swallow, the complex, multi-course meals made of layer after layer of uncertainty and guilt, warring flavors of disbelief and longing to believe, fear of getting what you want and fear of losing what you never had. It’s okay if you can’t choke them down right away, if they get stuck halfway and leave a lump in your throat, if they make you sick and some of them leak out through your eyes and nose or burst out of your mouth when you least expect it. It happens to the best of us. You just have to build up a tolerance. Consume them little by little, and before you know it, you’ll have room on your plate for something else, something better.
Just as you can’t remember the time before you ate solid food, soon it will become second nature. One day you’ll wonder when the last time you cried was, and find you can’t remember. That’s great, you’ll think, no one can hurt you now. No one can touch you. You are a pristine and impenetrable fortress of stoicism. Everything is blank and immaculate.
Carry on and don’t give it another thought. Not until someone asks you how you feel and you don’t have an answer because you just don’t know. Not until something happens and you laugh when you were supposed to cry because somewhere along the way the wires got crossed. Not until someone is sitting in front of you, spewing their feelings and begging for yours and all you can think is what a mess they’ve made in the place you’ve worked so hard to keep so tidy.