When I was a little girl, my feelings were my friends.
I loved to feel—happy, sad, angry, confused, afraid, whatever, and I did every emotion as big as I could. To me, my feelings were who I was. Which, if you think about it, makes a lot of sense. As a little kid, you don’t have much information about who you are. Frankly, I don’t think you really care at that age, so it follows that who you are has more to do with your emotions. Annie was afraid of spiders. Annie loved to sing. Annie was disgusted by bananas. Annie was happiest when she was in her room reading books.
Recently I have been living a bit differently.
Annie has a BA from Hampshire College. Annie is a writer. Annie lives in Los Angeles. Annie has a boyfriend. Annie has a dog. Annie does yoga sometimes. Annie thinks about doing yoga more than she actually does yoga because a while ago she sprained her ankle and decided that getting back into yoga would be too hard. Annie needs to get a grip.
My “feel” statements turned into “is” statements, or “has” statements, which is just another way of saying I gave up my feelings for details that don’t really matter that much to me. I didn’t get a dog to have a dog. That’s ludicrous. Who gets a dog just to say they have a dog? I got a dog because it makes me happy to have a furry little friend around when I’m home alone writing. I got a dog because it is fun to play with him and I have to walk him which gets me outside which also makes me FEEL better. Having a dog is 100% about warm fuzzy feels.
Yet I was living my life just to live it. If we think about my life as the dog, I was literally getting a dog just to have it. Just so I could point at the dog when people were over and say “Look. I have one! I got the thing I’m supposed to get! Can I have my gold star now?” The truly crappy part is that I really thought it was the best way to be. I thought my feelings would get in the way of my life. Turns out, I don’t have much of a life worth living without them.
A dog is no fun without the warm fuzzies.
A bachelor’s degree is no fun without the pride and feeling of accomplishment.
A relationship is no fun without the love.
And yes, I really do believe that some things are not worth it without some feelings that are…a bit less warm and a bit less fuzzy. Life, for instance.
When I was about fifteen, the number one reason why I didn’t want to go to therapy was because I thought if I went to therapy I would have to be happy all the time. I’m not kidding. I was so in love with my feelings—and I mean ALL of them—that the concept of only feeling happy was completely useless to me. I liked being sad, angry, exasperated, in love, out of love, morose, dejected, exuberant, and all other sorts of adjectives. Maybe it was the hormones, but my feelings felt so rich, so delicious, that I didn’t want to give them up.
All save one.
It may be hilariously redundant, but fear absolutely terrified me. I hated feeling it. When I felt afraid I thought I would disappear into the feeling without a trace. The way I saw it, fear was the one emotion that was actually having a negative affect on my life. It stopped me from doing things I wanted to do. It kept me from talking to people and seeking out experiences I wanted to have. Hell, it has kept me from starting this very blog for longer than I care to admit (about a year). Even as I embraced my other emotions with open arms, I pushed fear away with a firm hand.
When I pushed fear away it didn’t go away. Instead it started to eat away at my insides like a parasite. In a way, my denial of fear turned me into the fearful person I am today! How neat! Aren’t humans fascinating???
It didn’t stop with fear, either. Soon sadness, confusion, anger, vulnerability, intense love all went the same was as fear. Happiness was the only emotion allowed, and that became an endangered species because the energy it takes to keep the entire range of your emotions at bay is exhausting, and it is difficult to feel entirely happy when you’re constantly exhausted.
So I had a choice. Keep on trying to overcome my emotions, or let them once again come to the surface and embrace them like old friends. I chose the route of friendship, and I have to say it has made all the difference.
When I stop pushing my emotions away and instead acknowledge them, they don’t create chaos in my life. They’ve stopped feeling like something I have to overcome. Even fear and I have come to an understanding. Sitting in my fear is not nearly as awful as I thought it would be. Earlier today, in fact, I sat on a park bench and just let the fear come.
First came fear.
Then came some tears.
Then came perspective.
Last came peace.
Peace! From fear! I was overjoyed, and immediately sat down at my computer to write this.
To me, being Annie is all about feelings, because they are more real and exciting to me than all the stuff in the world could possibly be. My feelings are my friends, and I now know exactly the nowhere I would be without them.