Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about feelings. Trying to put into words what they mean to me, if that’s possible.
I will never forget something my mom told me years ago, and which she brings up again from time to time. It was a memory she cherished, from the immediate aftermath of her divorce from my dad after 20+ years of marriage. In the memory, a flock of geese flew over her, on their way south for the winter. As I remember her telling it, even while experiencing indescribable grief, she saw those geese and recognized how beautiful they were. In her deepest sadness, the world spun on around her, crystalized in this quiet, lovely, heartbreaking moment.
I think about this all the time, especially when I’m sad. I’m sure I’ve misremembered details of my mom’s experience, but her purpose in telling me, I think, was to remind me that even when we’re in pain — especially when we’re in pain — any source of joy, no matter how small, is such a contrast from the sadness that it becomes enormous. And those brief, shining moments are distilled life.
There is nothing as important to me as feeling. Whether those feelings are love, excitement, sorrow, mirth, whatever — they are me. Depression, if you’ve ever experienced it, and I’m sure most of us have at one point or another, is devoid of feeling. It isn’t even necessarily sadness, although that’s how it often manifests for me. Instead, at its worst, it is emptiness. It is neither sadness nor joy. It is an inability to experience and interact with the world in a meaningful way; it is drifting through life untethered, unconnected, completely alone and without purpose. It is the worst form of torture.
Sadness, acute pain, heartbreak, grief — in the moment we feel them, we hate them. We want them to leave us forever. We’d rather feel nothing than go on for another second in such agony. But that agony, the physical crushing pain that comes with heartbreak, is part of being alive. It is the brightest reminder of vibrancy, of existence. Life is a series of experiences, and our bodies processing those experiences. To feel deeply is to live.
Without feelings, we are empty.
This is why I cling desperately to everything that makes me feel. Music, stories, images, memories. Anything that envelops me in overwhelming emotion is incredibly important, and must be cherished. I tend not to care very much for things that make me think; instead, I reach for what will elicit a strong emotional response.
One of my biggest frustrations — and I’m sure this must be the case for many people, especially artists — is the inability to ever fully express or explain the exact nature of my emotions. It is impossible for me to sit here and write the perfect series of words that will invoke a mirrored emotional response in the reader. There is just no way to pluck a feeling out of my chest and deposit it in someone else’s.
It’s all I want, though. I want it so desperately, all the time.
And not because I want to be understood, or because I want someone to agree with me, or share my beliefs. But because I want to know that somewhere, someone has experienced a feeling exactly like mine, that we don’t have to say anything, we just get it. We are in tandem for just a moment, the universe spinning around us in synchronicity, and there’s no need to explain or elaborate or speak at all. We just know.
When I ask you to watch a show or a movie or listen to a song I love, this is why. I want you to know what I’m feeling, deeply and intensely, and I want to know that you feel the same.
To some of you this may sound maudlin, creepy, or invasive. But the way I see it, every moment boils down to a feeling, and without those feelings, the moment is meaningless. To connect with each other, we must share moments. And more than anything, I want to connect with people. Not over our hobbies, or values, or preference in pizza toppings. I want to share experiences, to know that we have felt the exact same thing for the exact same reason in the exact same way, at some point in time.
Because to me, it’s the deepest and most intimate and wonderful way to know the world.