Tag Archives: Emotion

On Emotion – Part 2

One of my favorite guys, (I call him Billy Shakes), wrote in Hamlet:

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them…

This morning, I’m taking liberty with Shakespeare’s words:

To feel, or not to feel, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to acknowledge a sea of repressed emotions
And by embracing them heal them.

Love, they say, makes you do the unthinkable. This complex blend of joy, surrender, acceptance, risk, adventure and courage is a fire under our butts to make us live fully.

For love of freedom, their families, and a chance to thrive, my parents, and hundreds of thousands of other folks’ parents, came north during the Great Migration of African-Americans in the mid twentieth century. They were looking to survive, thrive, and make a difference in their lives.  All the words of the poets, sociologists, rappers, and humanitarians—for centuries—will never convey the emotion involved with that movement.

For some, it worked out very well. For others—not so much.

I don’t know that my mother ever really knew, or acknowledged, what her real feelings were. Rage masked the pain of sacrifice.  She’d left behind her beloved parents, a job as a working teacher—a career that is so much a part of her identity that she remembers this if nothing else these days—in order to move to an area of the country she didn’t know and raise, in poverty, five children that were not in her life plans. Over the years, she swallowed her truth and regurgitated rage.  I watched, listened, fought back, and learned.

Unexpressed truth is like an ever-present itch. The only salve is to recognize true feelings, learn to express them appropriately, and make choices that allow one to live an emotionally healthy life. The process, for sure, can be a long, slow, and psychically painful one. And not everyone is up for the task.

Today, when I see my mother drop back in time and wander in that place where she ran on a farm, sang with the birds, ate freshly picked peaches, and idolized her father, my own emotion is sadness.

“Here, doggie,” she says with leftover food. “Give this to the dogs,” she says in a child-like voice.

There are no dogs here today, but I won’t argue. I say “okay” and tuck the food, when she’s not looking, into the garbage. She lives, now—so much of the time—in a place where her emotions are softer–and free.

I am fortunate.  My choices in life have given me the opportunity to learn how to feel—and express my emotions creatively. I sing, I write, I journal. I chant, and when I’m disciplined, meditate. I make an effort to say what I am feeling in a kind, respectful, and truthful way. When what I have to say is not received and the conversation floats to anger, the person ends up on a page. Yep. I will not repress my emotions.

It was once taught, even in my nuclear and extended family, that children should be seen and not heard. I’m happy to see that my siblings have chosen to raise children who laugh, get angry, express sadness, and show their feelings openly. The old rules about emotional response are as dead as pulled weeds. My nieces and nephews speak their minds, invent their stories, write, sing, dance, and ice skate with passion and freedom.

At the end of the day, being honestly connected to our feelings is our saving grace and a benefit to our community. Men in touch with and able to express their true feelings in a healthy way do not go ballistic in the work place, shooting up friends and co-workers. Women who feel safe in sharing their range of emotions in a healthy way do not murder their children, their husbands, or themselves.

Emotions count. The spectacular spectrum of energies that pass through our bodies every day in the form of joy, love, sorrow, anger, fear, and more are here for a reason. Emotions are the underpinning to creativity:  songs, stories, theater, sports marathons, raising healthy children…We sing, speak, cook, run, and dance our emotions.

Emotions are the gift and evidence of being alive, a human being—not a robot.