aerial photography of beach with stones

The Truth About Emotional Tides

“You are going to be okay.” I have a complicated history with this phrase. For a long time, I whole-heartedly despised it. I hated when people spoke it loudly. I hated softer variations of it. It was too ignorant to oppose the cerebral weight of emotional tides crashing within me. At times, emotional tides make us doubt our sanity—the truths we have carried with us through time. They can either fill us to the brim or empty us dry. They have an essence of polarity to them, never settling in averages. One side, excitement; the other, woe. Pride or shame. Love or apathy. And we never know which one we are going to get. So we always come back for more, reaching to pull the lever on the slot machine of emotion once more.

I struggled with the thought of being just okay because I did not want to believe that there was a life out there for me that was independent of emotional value. I did not want to believe that life did not have to be lived in extremes—it did not have to be riveting all the time, it did not have to be exhausting. I was scared to plateau. I was scared of averaging out, of stopping the rollercoaster, of gaining independence in thought. But I am doing better now. I am finding that an hour of laughter is just as great as an hour of sleep. I am finding that an hour lost to nervously checking the time does not give my life less value than an hour of physical conversation with another human being. These parts will always fluctuate in their existence within me. But just because at times I assign higher emotional precedence to one does not mean I have to choose to continue living in its shadow. I can choose to be okay—I can choose to move forward, despite how tightly it claws at me.

So, I hope you believe in being okay. I hope you believe in being content wherever you stand right now. Not because you have been through worse. Not because there is better to come. Not because choosing it will bring you happiness or fulfillment, but because being okay is not a destination. It’s honoring that sometimes everything is not okay. It’s understanding that although right now we can’t effectively understand why things had to happen the way they did, we can still accept it cognitively, and we can move forward with it physically.

Emotional tides will never end. Like the moon, they are cyclical. Sometimes they will lock the door behind themselves. They will be your blanket in the cold. They will become the “only one who understands.” But regardless of how they make you feel, you do need to remember that they do not define the goodness of your soul or your circumstance. And being okay with that isn’t monumental growth. At first, it’s simple recognition, and then it’s grief that we can’t stop the waves from coming, and then it’s whispering, “I will be okay.” It’s coming to terms with the fact that the pattern will keep repeating itself without our control. We will keep getting hurt. We will lose our bearings in the tides of emotions. It’s inevitable. Once we recognize its presence, we need to resist the temptation to continue to build our life around a pain that hurts so good—a pain is predictable, an emotion that we allowed to define us, for the unknown, for something different, for time, for healing.

About the author

I am always discovering tenderness in strangers

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