For this “Unfocused Friday” my good friend Lisa has written a post about life and emotions – a reminder of how they’re both ever-changing.
Just as people experience pain in different ways, one man suffers a hangnail the way others suffer a root canal, I have often wondered how different people experience emotional pain. I am one of those people that suffer from occasional bouts of extreme worthlessness, and frustration to the point of just wanting to end it all. Not to the point of taking my own life, thankfully, but certainly to the point of picking up, walking away and never returning to whatever morass of emotional trouble I am in.
I carry around in my wallet a note Lita made for me many, many years ago, that says “if you ever wonder ‘what’s the use’ like we all do, then realize that I … love you “, in case I forget that I am loved, and worthwhile…that I MATTER..and when it gets really grim, I go through my litany of why I can’t just cease to exist, how to explain it to my 6 and 2 year-old goddaughters, can’t leave a financial mess to the executor, it would upset my mother, etc.
As most people aren’t comfortable about talking about their internal emotional life, it is impossible to know to what extent my worthlessness falls in the normal spectrum of human emotion. Just as it is impossible to describe exactly how any physical pain compares with another person’s physical pain, since by nature we experience these things alone. As much as I would like to be more even tempered and not have these hideous black moments (which as I point out, might be silly in the face of other people’s hideous black moments) it is unlikely that I will be able to eliminate them entirely.
The beauty of life though, is that emotions are transitory. This was brought home to me so clearly earlier in the spring. I had flown to Paris for a lovely vacation to France and Spain, only to have the vacation go awry with the eruption of the Icelandic volcano. Suddenly, all the plans I had made were tossed out the window, and the only control I had over the situation was (minimal!) control over my own emotions. One horrible day, my traveling companion decided to spend 6 hours on the telephone trying to get flights, to make different hotel arrangements, to make a change. He was snappish, and I was just angry, to be in Paris, trapped in a tiny flat, arguing with companion, at the mercy of companion’s emotions and actions, wrangling with the airlines, feeling frustrated about wasted money and opportunity [and yes, I see the ridiculousness in writing these sentences,”Get a real problem lady” I imagine you saying, “Who complains about being stuck in Paris”]. Regardless, it was such a black moment for me, loathing companion, loathing the situation and just so frustrated, I gladly would have just floated away above myself, never to return. When we finally did leave the flat, I just stomped around the city with the worst attitude, and in such a poor frame of mind.
But again, the beauty of life is that emotions are transitory. The next morning, with no monuments to see, museums to visit or vacation agenda to fulfill (having expected to be in Spain by this point), we were free to just be, to experience the world. We found ourselves in Luxembourg Gardens, on a beautiful sunny day. They have small wooden sailboats to rent there, like I had only read about in books, and I was struck with the desire to rent one. I was the only adult with a sailboat, but I didn’t care. I ran around that fountain, pushed my boat with the little pushing stick, laughed when it got stuck on the pond, and cheered when it made it to the edge. At one point a little French girl decided to “help” me with my boat and we both ran around for a long time laughing and yelling.
At some point, it dawned on me that I was having one of the happiest moments of my life, one that was totally unexpected, totally unplanned and on the heels of one of the most awful feelings I had had in years.
I have the photo of me and that boat on my dresser at home, to remind me that a beautiful moment is on the other side of a grim one, that in the midst of frustration and worthlessness, serendipity and beauty and grace exist, just waiting for me to witness and enjoy. I would love to never experience a black mood of worthlessness and frustration again, but when I do, I will look at that photo and remember that emotions are only transitory, and I will be just fine.