I’ve been reading Tuesdays With Morrie for the first time. It’s a book that relishes introspection. Further, it illustrates what happens when introspection is spoken aloud. It’s the act of sharing thoughts, musings, wisdom, questions…anything at all. Sharing personal contact, sharing food, sharing a tear, sharing doubts, sharing failures, all is explored. I want to display a passage I just read which is particularly resonant:
“Turn on the faucet. Wash yourself with the emotion. It won’t hurt you. It will only help…’All right, it’s just fear, I don’ t have to let it control me. I see it for what it is.’ Same for loneliness: you let go, let the tears flow, feel it completely — but eventually be able to say, ‘All right, that was my moment with loneliness. I’m not afraid of feeling lonely, but now I’m going to put that loneliness aside and know that there are other emotions in the world, and I’m going to experience them as well.'”*
I read this passage a few times. It cascaded like hundreds of sounds, streaming together into one symphony of awareness. Its words seemed to shape peace itself, as if putting a cloak on something invisible, so one can finally see its shape, its form. I agree with Mitch, who notes that most of us are frozen and reign in whatever we feel at different times in our life because who wants to be that open or transparent all the time? We do not live in a culture that allows or generates such behavior. We live in a culture that spends millions of dollars telling the masses what we should feel, how we should dress, how to be the best version of “us”–which is really just maintaining a numb blob of commonality.
To own, to possess what you’re feeling when you’re feeling it…that seems quite extraordinary. I’ve gone through both sides of the spectrum in my life. Early one, as an adolescent, I felt everything loudly. If I was in an emotion, it exploded out of me, without harness. Yet when I got to high school, I began to change, not satisfied with being so predictable and not wanting to continue with the clanging of my previous personality. So I began to bottle. I constructed a dam, letting slivers of realness through on rare occasions. I built what I thought was a well-functioning fortress. And I believe it was. Because one day, at the end of a school day, I lost my keys and therefore couldn’t go home right away – I had already stayed late for a practice, and wanted to head home. But my keys were nowhere to be found. What is an extremely frequent mishap for many, detonated my resolve. I broke down in uncontrollable tears and began to shake – all because there were 5 minutes where I couldn’t find my car keys. I knew instantly that something wasn’t right about that. The embankment I had so ornately constructed, disintegrated around me and I couldn’t ignore the wake of the raging waters. I wish I could tell you that from that day forward, I walked the balance between the two extremes, but that would be farce. Truth be told, I’m precariously assembling a new wall, and have been for some time. I think I’m a master architect, but I have been informed on many an occasion that my brazened heart is detectable on my sleeves almost perpetually. And that shames me. I shrink when people can call me on what I’m feeling. Sometimes, others can tell me before I realize it myself and the correlating emotions which accompany such insight are boundless.
Yet why be ashamed? Morrie knew and tried to convey to anyone who would listen, that such masquerades are not only meaningless, they rob you of the immense pleasure of living. I’m inclined to believe him.
So when there is a time when I feel envy, or loss, or abandonment, or confusion – I don’t need to heap mounds of dirt atop them to suffocate them into non-existence. They’ll rise again, with vigor. I can tell myself “Ok, this is fear. It’s come to me. I’ll let it. I’m feeling it. — But I’m going to separate from it now. And walk away.” And walk away I shall. I have the anticipated knowledge that it will be excruciatingly difficult at first…to walk away without looking back to see if it’s following me. I will have to learn not to continue in that emotion or tack more fear onto it, allowing the shadow of diffidence to linger and dictate my behavior. But if life were not riddled with trying, failing, and trying again why would there be new mornings? Why would there be a sunset if not to give the sun a chance rise again? To display new splendor that wasn’t there before? I choose to operate under this new regime. I will need accountability. Trying to master the complex rhythms of life alone is like trying to find the center of the Earth by climbing a ladder. It’s senseless and you’re liable to break your neck when you fall back down to reality. Unnecessary pain. And there’s already an enormity of unnecessary pain in this world, adding to it would be a tragedy undefinable.
*Click on the asterisk next to the block quote to visit Mitch Albom’s website, and for more information on Tuesdays With Morrie