We'll be mad, and explore.
We'll recline a loft upon the breeze.
Dart about, sail on with with ease.
Pass the days doing only as we please, that's what living is for.
Some things are meant to be, the tide turning endlessly,
the way it takes hold of me, no matter what I do,
and some things will never die, the promise of who you are,
the memories when I am far from you.
- Beth, Little Women (the musical)
Today I am sad. I do not know why, there is nothing that has sparked it. But I felt it almost immediately upon waking this morning. Perhaps a lonely soul is calling out somewhere far away, and somehow my own has heard it, and wishes to ease their suffering by taking on some of the burden.
Sadness is not common for me. Well, no standard "emotional response" really is common for me. I used to think something was truly wrong because of this. Everyone around me seemed to be enjoying "feeling" emotions like they were normal and healthy...and I, was awash in a sea of dispassionate reason, completely baffled as to why those around me would get emotionally worked up over what seemed the smallest things in life. I did not look down on anyone for it, it was just confusing.
I had to learn early into my teen years how to emotionally respond to things. Well - how to appear to emotionally respond to things, in order to feel like I could fit into the world I had been born to. I learned what my face was supposed to look like, what my body language needed to be. I had to learn, step by step what was a socially acceptable, reasonable and expected response to various life...things. I'm sure this is why I have always loved theatre so much, it feels like home to me.
Sometimes this skill was valuable - I didn't get too embarrassed as a teenager and never can I remember caring whether people "liked me" or not. Mostly because I watched people so much, and was acutely aware of the fact that just about everyone was mostly focused on themselves, which meant that as long as my actions/reactions, words and responses were not louder then their own inner dialogue; their own inner fear of rejection, no one would pay attention to me. I learned how to be loud, only when I wanted to be. I learned how to supplement the inner dialogue of those around me to achieve what I needed. A valuable, tool...though not always a very kind one.
Sometimes this was more challenging, for instance in relationships. Making friends with other girls was not easy, I didn't get them, they didn't get me. However, making friends with boys was too easy, but came with a whole other level of complex emotional responses I was not prepared to deal with.
It is not to say I do not experience emotions at all - music for one, is a great exception. I feel emotion very strongly through music - and have occasionally while watching a show or movie as well. But they are not my own, only borrowed, and I am very aware of that.
REAL emotions (strong ones anyhow), have always been very physical for me - much like hunger is a physical "feeling." When I am truly sad, I cry - that is how I know I am sad. When I miss someone, it physically aches when I am not with them. So naturally, I want to be with them so the ache goes away. When I love someone, I want to protect them, keep them safe. The idea of them getting hurt, lost, sick or worse... feels catastrophic. So when I try to imagine living beyond that catastrophic event, it is like imagining breathing under water. The result of emotions being so physical, means they are also extremely exhausting. Because of this, I try to avoid them as much as possible. I just don't have the spoons to spare.
Small emotions on the other hand - such as annoyance, excitement or...umm...I ran out. What other small emotions are there? I know there are more! I just can't think of them at the moment....errr...yeah. So anyway, I feel those too. But it is on an intellectual level. I know I feel them, or rather, I know I should feel them. So I do...I just don't actually feel them...do you feel me?
It wasn't until I took an online Meyers Briggs test for the first time, probably 5 or so years ago that I learned that my lack of "feeling" was not because there was something wrong with me. It was simply part of my personality.
After I read my results, I started researching (as is consistent with the personality...) and was completely shell-shocked with relief that I was not broken after all! I also discovered that INTJ is one of the rarest personalities for females...which is why I have never felt like I fit into any female group that I have been a part of, and why I have never found books/talks/lists/articles/etc. aimed at women to be something with which I can relate.
It also explained my need to question all authority, to analyze people and their reactions to life. To research to death anything that scared me, because knowledge is power. It explained why I loved to argue, whether I agreed with my side or not. That the battle was a part of the process to discover truth. I love being right, but if I am wrong and you present an intelligent reason why, I will concede my position in a heartbeat and gladly celebrate with you your victory. After all, the only reason that I am often right in these arguments is because there is a good chance I have spent time researching it - so if you have too, even if we do not agree, you have my utmost respect. However, if you argue something you know nothing about, with "I think I heard it somewhere" as your only resource? I very well may think you are a moron.
So that is why I was a bit confused when I woke up this morning feeling sad.
This has been a season of changes. Good changes, but changes none-the-less. I think that one of the changes that I have come to recognized is my eldest child exiting her small child persona and dipping her toes into the vast ocean of tween-dom.
She will be 10 in just a few short days, a whole entire decade. This feels big to me, beyond the shocking realization that I am old enough to have a 10 year old. That I have been a parent for 10 whole years!
10 years ago, I faced a whole new chapter in life, full of very real changes that I had never before faced. 10 years ago, I was mentally preparing myself for the world ahead. I was excited, exhilarated, aware of just how monumental it all was, terrified through and through...and interwoven through-out all of that, I found that I was sad, but in a happy sort of way. Sad for a life left behind, sad for a part of me being put aside for the unforeseeable future. Put aside so I could focus completely on a new and very important thing that was all of me and none of me all at the same time. Sad because part of me was going to sleep, so that someone new could wake up.
10 years ago seems like yesterday and 100 years ago all at the same time.
Many good memories, many hard ones.
Was it really 10 years ago?
This year has been a very interesting one so far. I think I have rather liked it so far. I have moved onto a new chapter in my life, and will soon be delving deeper into said chapter - and this will mean very real changes. Changes I have never before faced. It is exciting, exhilarating, monumental, terrifying and it is something that I think I didn't expect: It is sad, but in a happy sort of way. Sad because there is a part of me that is being put aside - the part that has been so completely focused on something that is not me and is completely me all at the same time. But guess what - there is another part of me that gets to wake up!
Sadness is not common for me. Well, no emotional response really is. My emotions are stunted if measured by normal societal scales, it is something I will likely struggle with for the rest of my life.
I have in my parenting - been utterly afraid that my lack of natural empathy would somehow hurt the emotional maturity of my kids. While I have done my best to teach an empathy I do not feel, my mediocre acting skills can only go so far. So I had to smile today as my soon-to-be-10 year old happily bobbed out of her room because she HAD to show me a poem she had read. It is found at the very end of the book Little Women (a story we have been enjoying in its many forms lately). She had tears in her eyes as she told me of the poem. She loved it, completely. She has already started memorizing it. I asked her why she loved it so much and her exact words were "I love it because it uses big words to express big feelings!"
I had to smile. My ten year old is already leaps and bounds beyond where I have worked to be for 34 years. How did I manage that? She is emotionally mature, able to express it and control it. She can recognize it in writing far beyond her age range and loves it so much she is compelled to share her delight with me! I can take no credit for this milestone, this was achieved despite me. The girl is truly fantastic, all on her own! She has worked hard to make sense of her own emotional world, and thus far she has done WELL. That makes me so very proud.
And I must admit, in a way that I didn't expect: It also makes me kind of sad, in a happy sort of way. Sad for a childhood that is just beginning to be lined with the shadows of a setting sun, but oh so very happy because there is a part of her that is just waking up. It is exciting, exhilarating, monumental, terrifying and oh it is so very, very spectacular!
Happy early 10th birthday my Taylor. You will blow us all away with everything you do someday, I know it.
Because it has big words with big feelings, here is Taylor's Little Women Poem: