I have the reputation of being a bubbly ball of cheer. I’m small, very animated, and have a lot of energy. I was raised to say “yes ma’am” and my slight country twang remains even though I’ve moved to the city. I am sweet and thoughtful and always smiling. People don’t always take me seriously and mistake my enthusiasm for ignorance. But just because I’m smiling, don’t write me off.
As happy as I am – and, for the most part, I truly am – you should also know that I, at times, become equally sad. I have a strong urge to cry in regard to pretty much any emotion, at any time. Like, all the time: happy, sad, mad, confused, hungry, whatever. I hated this about myself for years and so I’ve learned to hide it. I’ve had boyfriends who didn’t like my scale of feelings. Adults told me to toughen up. But I no longer believe crying is a sign of weakness. As my mother puts it, “Honey, your pendulum just swings wide.” A lover of words, this metaphor became more and more apparent as I grew older.
I am quick to forgive but it’s almost impossible for me to forget. I will laugh until I cry and experience those magical feelings of true glee but, my God, can I find myself in a dark place. But when I get there, if you ever happen to be around for it, don’t worry too much. I’ll find my way out. I have felt so broken, so raw, that I feel physically split in half. I have doubled over on myself, holding my sanity together with all my strength. I’ve learned the tricks of frozen spoons for my swollen lids, felt the soreness in my chest after a night of wrenching sobs. I keep these experiences to myself, mostly. As long as I let them out, I’m alright. It would shock you to see me this way and maybe, one day, I’ll realize you’re strong enough to help hold me together and let you see. Please understand that, although I am lucky to have so many more highs, there are these lows. Because I laugh and make a fool of myself, don’t think I don’t cry or become insecure.
Because I am a “sunshine spirit,” I will celebrate and cheer on your successes. But don’t worry, I can also handle your rock bottom. My heart is big and well-versed enough in struggle to be able to relate and to support you when you’re at an all-time low. My lack of cynicism should not be confused for a lack of knowledge or naiveté. I have been betrayed and lied to by friends, partners, strangers, and have learned to better spot these kinds of people.
I’ve become more guarded, just like every other twenty-something-year-old, and I’ll call you on your bullshit. It takes a little more to win my heart now, but when you do I will be ruthlessly loyal and love fiercely. I am not an externally extreme person, but my emotions are powerful. If I love you, I will love you with all of me. You should be aware of this before it happens, because it’s a big responsibility. I will weep over you, for you, in spite of you. I don’t ask you to tiptoe around my feelings; I can handle them, I’m used to it. I just ask for you to know. When we kiss, I will kiss you with all the fire within me. Embrace my joy and happiness and feel free to soak it in when you need some extra light. But just be aware that there is another side too, and it will come out.
When we fight, I’ll cry because I’m frustrated, and I’ll try to hide it from you. When I feel hurt, I will probably shut you out and you’ll see me, blotchy and puffy – looking like I have a tropical skin rash because unfortunately ugly crying is my norm, not an exception. People that don’t know me too well will be surprised if you mention it. “But she’s always so happy. Something must be really wrong.” And that may or may not be true. What they say about not feeling the highs without the lows is a clichéd truth for a reason.
My typical demeanor is not indicative of an inability to feel low. In fact, quite the opposite. I would venture to say that the happiest people are also capable of being the saddest. Sure, sometimes it’s shitty, to feel so much. It’s a lot of weight on your heart and it scares people away. But these people, I also believe, are the most alive. When you are with me, whether I’m grinning or sobbing, know that I am experiencing and taking in all of you. I am reacting to you and it just means I’m paying attention.
Happiness is a choice, and it takes strength to make that choice. But moments of sadness and darkness are not lapses in strength. They’re reminders of truth and it takes a strong will to face them head on and dare to experience them. It’s all part of the ride and if you’re ready, then I am too.