Friday, 2 August 2013

(Not) coming to my emotional rescue

I have never trusted emotions. Mostly they have got me in trouble. I am often completely overwhelmed with tears at inopportune times. A tricky conversation with a boss; a friend who is trying to talk about her own sadness; early morning despair: they have all sent me from 0-100 on the crying jag scale. It's no fun at  the time, and afterwards, it seems pointless. (Then there's my object-rage, but I already talked about that the other day. Enough already!) I love my partner, so I know what that feels like. But for a long time, I've had a sense that I wasn't tuned into the full range of emotions, just the zero of dead numb, and the 100 of way-too-much-for-me. Once in a writing class, a teacher gave me feedback on a nuanced scene I'd written, saying I should describe what the character was physically feeling in her lonely, disconnected moment. My answer was something like, "How the hell should I know?" I was always suspicious of people who could talk about emotions in explicit, articulate detail. I thought they were just bullshitting, and I prided myself on having a fine-tuned bullshit meter.

And then I quit drinking. Holy mother, do I feel emotions! Big ones, small ones, all the nuance in the world. And they're happening to me all the time. Who knew?

Last night, my partner and I were eating dinner. Poached halibut on fennel and zucchini, homemade minty-lime-fizz concoction to drink, apricots with yoghurt cheese and a sliver of dark chocolate for dessert. It was yummy! Still, it wasn't all that unusual. We both love to cook, and we eat well. But last night, I thought about how often on similar nights I had quickly slid into numb oblivion, leaving my beautiful partner to do his best making sense of my rambling drunken patter. That's a sad thought, so I felt sad, and in the middle of a lovely conversation, I started to cry. I felt a surge of grief over all that wasted time and energy, and what I now see as the daily insult to the beautiful person who kept on sharing himself with me even though I had persisted in going blotto.

I cried, yes. But I didn't dissolve into an uncontrollable heap of sobbing and end up with a massive headache and a wrecked evening. I just cried, and explained why I was sad, and asked to be held for a few minutes. And then it was gone. It wasn't a wallowing, furious sadness. Just the sensible grief at what I truly have wasted and can never get back. It was a real, normal, life-sized emotion, something that tuned me in to what was going on and helped me see it in a new way. This is all new to me. Maybe I am learning to feel my emotions, and to appreciate them. Maybe they will scale up from zero and down for 100 to life-sized proportions, filling out that whole range in between. I could live with that.

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