Hello out there, you—whoever you are. Welcome to this post. You are welcome here.
I want to write out a blog post today because it is cold and rainy outside, and it is early November. Ideal writing conditions. The fact that I’m also listening to an 8D dreamscape oldies train journey ASMR video means I really have no choice but to blog today.
Earlier this season, I received some life-changing news—the details of which I am not ready to reveal to the Internet, but which have nevertheless had a drastic effect on my daily life. I have since logged off my Instagram and Twitter to aid in my ability to process this news. Having been off these platforms for a month now, I am beginning to understand their impact on my thoughts, opinions, and self-perception. My mind feels more spacious, but the desire to express myself has not gone away.
I’m someone who loves to acquire information. I do this hungrily throughout the day, often at the expense of my emotional self, who simply can’t keep up with the speed at which my brain processes thoughts. And so I become the little rainbow wheel that spins when a Mac can’t load an application quickly. Spinning but static.
I’m also someone who loves to share information. To express my thoughts, opinions, and the way I perceive myself in relation to things. Naturally, a tension builds between this simultaneous desire for input and output. Returning to the physicality of my body, and of wordless things in the physical world, is what I’m finding helps relieve this mental tension. It’s a shift in energy that equates to less input and output overall. A shift where energy gets funneled from thinking and expressing to being and doing.
All this is to say, I am working on processing. Recalibrating thought loops. What does this look like physically? Keeping my hands busy with embroidery. Listening to my monthly playlist while I walk. Diffusing cinnamon and ginger essential oils while I work. Wearing my masculine outfits because that’s what makes me feel good and calm. Writing by way of feeling my fingertips on the keys of my keyboard, the nib of my pen against the page.
Tell me: how do you process things? Do you write? Do you scream? Do you sit beneath the widening sky and ask “why me?”
For as long as I can remember, I have wrestled with a callous set of twins: Grief and Worry. I’ve spent much of my life either wallowing self-indulgently in their company or scheduling as many activities as possible to prolong our eventual, inevitable reunion. Throughout elementary school, I remember flipping through a bright blue binder full of old photos containing memories of younger me and crying, understanding the terrible reality that I would never be where I was or who I was in those photos—at those precise moments in time—ever again. I would never experience the same feeling of being seven years old at Suzanne Shuff’s house eating cake and drinking a Capri Sun with the other girls of Troop 4023. Yet I did not bemoan the passing of these captured moments because I was distinctly happy in them. In fact, I remember feeling rather melancholy at most of my Girl Scout troop meetings. What caused my grief was simply that the uniqueness of the moments had passed—that the uniqueness of every moment always passes.
While Grief prefers to spend her time ruminating on what has passed, Worry concerns herself with the meticulous details of all—and I mean all—conceivable future scenarios. Understandably, Worry likes to consult Grief when predicting patterns of possible emotional storms. Worry sits erect in a luxurious, mahogany leather chair at her command center, reference book of Past Transgressions in her left hand and all controls dedicated to the Prevention of Future Pain within reach of her right hand. What is unpredictable or potentially uncontrollable must be eliminated in order to sustain her white-knuckled reign. Worry’s presence in my life has materialized through a near obsessive pursuit of knowledge (what you know can’t hurt you, right?), a deep-seated fear of tornadoes (the essence of unpredictability), and the creation and subsequent abandonment of several five-year plans. Despite abounding evidence to the contrary, Worry operates methodically and reliably under the notion that all pain can be avoided if she develops a sophisticated enough life plan.
While varying in actual emotional vibration—Grief churns and Worry quivers—what these two states have in common is their preoccupation with time: its simultaneous ephemerality and infinitude. Grief understands that life is fleeting, that life can end as abruptly as it began; Worry knows that a day can feel like a year if not structured properly. I wish I could say that I found a way to keep these evil twins at bay, but many days I spend too much time in their company. And there’s that word again: time. From practicing yoga, reading poetry, and attending regular therapy sessions, I know conceptually of Grief and Worry’s antidote, Presence. She beckons me to come dance with her, already, even if it feels safer to sit in my seat and watch, introspect, contemplate, yearn. Presence knows that some days I will dance with Grief or Worry, but there will be other days that I dance with Tranquility, Optimism, Wonder. Some days I might even dance with every emotion on the spectrum. What matters is that I try—we try—every day to let the rhythm of the dance envelop and deliver us to where we are supposed to go.
It is one of my last lunch breaks beneath the trees of Wooten Hall. Soon I will trade twisting branches for billowy clouds. Over the past few years, this place has been a sort of refuge for me—a haven of green and brown amidst the hours of work and talk. It is in the presence of these wise beings, having endured years of sunshine and storms, that my spirit soars. I’ll miss seeing these trees every day, but if I know anything about life, I know that there are special spots everywhere. There are special spots everywhere, waiting to be found, and if not found, then created by you.
As concepts, faith and hope need not be reserved for the churchgoer or the expectant mother. They have the ability to be gentle and godless states of being—born in art, or in an unfailing belief in the goodness of others.
Verbal excess does not necessarily resolve things. Yes, there is catharsis in vocalizing every arising thought, but this process has the tendency to overwhelm a treasured listener and devalue any wisdom that may be expressed.
The truth of life that we continuously seek is a simple, uncomplicated truth. And yet, we desire complex solutions to match our complex problems—spiritual remedies as convoluted as our thought patterns.
An important yet frequently dismissed part of life is the experience of pleasure. Not pleasure as an end goal, necessarily, but pleasure as a byproduct of essential human acts. Things like admiring the arc of a tree branch, cupping a rose to inhale its lovely scent, petting the intricate fur of an animal, gazing upon the lushness of an oil painting, touching the skin of your beloved, or savoring the sweetness of the raspberry jam on your morning toast.
In every moment, the Angel of Objective Rationality and the Angel of Empathic Sensibility perch on each of your shoulders. There they sit, lovingly throughout your days, waiting to be consulted.
Indeed, there is meaning in everything, but I don’t always have to find it.
What is the most challenging—but ultimately, perhaps, the most worthwhile—way to live? The middle way. The path that neither blindly subscribes nor cynically rejects and derides. The place where dullness and tranquility come to dance.
Emotions are vibrations I experience in my body. They are not who I am. They are not who I am.