Opinion: On Feelings

Emotions are muddy waters, no? pain, hurt, lust, love, and even joy. The other day I woke up in one of those moods: the one which make us feel as though we can conquer the world. Where possibilities shine in every nook and beauty is in every cranny. By the evening I was exhausted and I crashed. It is not coffee because I do not drink it. I was overwhelmed by the intensity of the feeling for it is not my usual state. Interestingly, one is often led to think that to reside in this state for eternity is bliss. But though one would argue that it is possible in moderation, I do not believe it. Not in this life as we know it. For knowing beauty is knowing ugliness. Feelings of being in the possession of great abilities, such as ones that make us feel the world is conquerable, is knowing that there are days when breathing is painful enough. And it begs the question, why must anything be conquered. Taken by force, overcome? Why cannot things be good enough so there is no wish to change a thing, or to feel any more or less than one already does? Why must there be opposites? Why must good be the wonderful side of bad. Why cannot there just be only the good without a negative other. It seems to me then that in a state of perfect uniformity, neutrality is the natural state of things. So that there are no opposites. In such a world  one can feel happiness for every second of life without feeling overwhelmed, supposing it is the natural emotion. And even then, there could not exist varieties of that happiness. It must always remain invariable.

This past Saturday afternoon found me in DUMBO.  I went out for a bit and danced until my neck felt sore. Suddenly this little joint between head and shoulder felt apart from the rest of my body and demanded pampering to hush it back into what usually feels like a seamless continuity with the rest of my body. My poor neck had suffered my joyous head thrashings and neck whippings in what I call wonderful dancing, and though it knew how to participate, it was not used to that much excitement in one afternoon. So the aches came. Let us call these aches the negatives. If our necks were not guided by such rules we could swing them as much as we desired and there would be no punishments. But our world is a diverse one and there is always some variance lurking about. Which is why when you find yourself  loving a little, your heart goes crazy in its thumping, your breathing is affected, your wits scatter like a clumsy maid, your knees turn to jelly at all the wrong times, and some of us cannot even save ourselves by hiding our feelings. This is not our usual states and we do not have a constant state exactly. Our neutrality is a little sad or a little happy or a little anxious or a little worried. Hence feelings, at a higher intensity are uncomfortable but not without allure. Feelings are impressive even when overwhelming. So what if we learn to tune into what songs our emotions are humming: the blues? a jazzy tune? or maybe a ragtime. What if we learn to observe our feelings as if they were another's? what if we learn to laugh at ourselves when we feel silly and want to hide but still learn to acknowledge the feeling of wanting to hide as something intriguing. What if we learn to teach ourselves to see that our feelings are not a nuisance but something fascinating. If we do, we learn to admire and respect them and to also know them to be internal states that are at once true and false. So that the feeling of wanting to hide is because we are embarrassed and our emotions are making suggestions of ways to avoid feeling embarrassed. But what if we allow ourselves to accept that embarrassment as something worth feeling. Something one need not escape from. For it is momentary like all things, is it not? It is not a perpetual feeling. There is no such thing for we do not occupy an invariable world. And if such a thing as a constant feeling exist then I am ignorant of it. So why should we not dare to operate from a state of embarrassment without giving in to shame, or practice courage in a state of fear?

Like the muddy waters, we are aware that even though the water looks dirty, when given time to settle the mud sinks, leaving the water clear. But I am not saying that we ignore how we feel, I believe what we feel must be respected even when we ought to resist it.  So when I hurt because it's been five minutes since I texted my dearest friend and they are yet to respond to me, I allow myself to feel all these feelings of uncared for, unloved, and such and such, because I think it is beautiful to feel, though not beautiful things to feel. It is amusing because I know my mind is suggesting these emotions just as it is suggesting a rational for why I have not heard from my friend. It means not that it is true. Hence I can be amused by these emotions, acknowledge them without believing them or giving into them. What I am proposing is the ability to give good attention to our emotions, and even in dismissing them, to not do so harshly but affectionately; like one's own wayward child. That we feel these things is incredible especially as it is incomprehensible even though there is a logic to it. To observe reason battle emotions and lose. To feel something to be true and yet doubt it. To wish to not care, and and be overwhelmed by caring.  How enchanting when we are not impatient with them. No matter how strongly I wish it, I cannot order myself to feel what I want to feel immediately. I can make myself do what I do not want to do, but I cannot make myself feel what I want to, and even when I delude myself, the truth sticks its tongue out.

But how about giving into our feelings when we should not yet there is so much pleasure in doing so? There was this man I really liked once. Just the sight of him broke my face into a big happy smile and put twinkles into my eyes. He did not return my affection. Yet I felt there was something in the way he looked at me, and the wonderful feeling of the possibility of my theory being true generated such pleasure that I gave myself a whole year to make a complete fool of myself over him. And what a happy fool I was. At the end of the year, he still did not return my affection and though I did not hate him or even dislike him, I was so tired of the overwhelming emotions that I desired to be free of them. I was still attracted to him, but  my pride had had it, and my time limit having expired it was not too difficult to start working on forgetting the feelings. Certain people have better self control so perhaps they would have done this in a shorter time frame. I do not have that good a self control and besides there are certain emotions I enjoy entertaining, even if it is embarrasing and at times hurtful. In fact I am proud of myself for allowing myself this liberty. For not letting my pride have its way. Back to the example of wanting to hide, say I should run into this man in the future and I find myself feeling I ought to hide, I will understand the feeling to be looking out for me, and I can understand that it is coming from my wounded pride and my sense of self-preservation. The pride I ignored when I allowed myself to try to convince someone to want me when I knew if it was possible for them to feel as such they would not need a whole year of convincing: logic vs feelings. But I do not lie to myself. I know I was in it because it pleased me and I had not the strength (nor did I want the strength) to not entertain the feelings. But letting myself feel these emotions has taught me some things that I would not have learned from giving into pride. It has also made me more sympathetic to similar behaviors from others, which I once found appalling due to lack of understanding; and I now have some idea of what I am capable of in that avenue of emotion.

As I write this, I am in a state of poor health. It is my first time being sick this year...I think. But I do not mind it.  Unless what ails me is serious, I like to give my body a chance to fight its sicknesses and I aide it with wonderful rest, great pepper soups, spicy teas,  and as much pampering as I can stand to lavish onto myself.  To some of you it will make sense when I say I am enjoying being sick. When I say I am enjoying this state of being, it is not the I love the feelings of weakness and uncomfort. What I mean is that I have faith that I will be better soon enough. But for now, this is an interesting feeling and I appreciate the care it demands. It has a novelty that is pleasing to humor. It is a reminder that I ought to treat myself kindly, and show my body some appreciation.  My body is not a robot, it has its ways and they ought to be respected. And to respect my feelings is to respect myself. To allow my feelings room enough to take a turn about is to give them the attention they deserve. They are worthy of my time for they are parts of me. And if I cannot make time for myself, what or who can I make time for?  Yet to know this state requires learning to step outside of the self. Experience the self as though it is a separate being.

It annoys me when people demand that I be 'happy!' Do not get me wrong, I love to be wished to be happy. But when others would not let us be unhappy because they deem it an unnatural state, that is not healthy. It comes  from a place of ignorance and this frustrates me. Oftentimes when others ask that we smile, or that we look cheerful it is because they themselves do not know how to allow themselves to entertain any emotion that is not happiness. Hence it is, in their opinion, unnatural or unacceptable to be sad, or angry: they tell us what they say to themselves in similar states. It annoys me because I wish we were all allowed to practice our feelings without so much fear. Without the notion that what is true to our nature is unnatural. I do not believe that one can be always happy, for it does not follow the laws of our world. And this is why when I have a day of incredible happiness, I find myself overwhelmed by it.  Although I believe myself a happy person in general, I also enjoy states of melancholia, feverish fear, consuming anger, intense lust, and sometimes crippling sadness and anxiety. And there is beauty in the ability to feel these emotions. The deeper I learn to feel these differing moods, as though they are passing clouds, the more I learn to understand and appreciate them. And I  learn more of myself. Who I am when angry, who I am when sad, etc. And interestingly, the happier I am for exercising these feelings. I become less afraid of embarrassment, fear, anger and all these emotions that we are taught to shun. It is as though my knowledge of them render them less frightening and more captivating but manageable, too. I, therefore, learn better how to entertain them: even those of them that I dislike.
-
Jane Odartey

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