I know that I feel more than I mention,
and that I struggle more than I smile.
I know that my joy is oft fleeting,
and my thoughts tend to run miles on miles.
If I examine the feast and the famine,
the storm and the silence within;
I begin to unravel the roads that I travel,
I begin to listen to my emotions.
I don’t have much practice or an ear for such talk,
quick to assume, I’m slow to be taught.
Though the learning be costive
and the hurdles exhaustive,
I’ve gowned up to dress down
this challenging ground.
These are my rambles, my brambles, my currency.
These are the thoughts of a heart that’s in surgery.
I recently heard this quote from a live lecture I was attending: “Our problem in our culture is that we think with our feelings.”
At first glance, I agreed. And I wasn’t alone. I glanced around the room and most people seemed to be nodding their heads as if we’d all just collectively had an epiphany. The speaker was right, this is our problem.
I jotted down the quote in my daily learning list and moved on. But over the next few days, my mind kept involuntarily returning to it. I’d think about it as I pushed my cart through the grocery store, or as I drove past a large playground near my house that sat empty and lifeless. I’d think about this quote as I jogged on the quiet streets of my neighborhood. The more I thought about these words, the more I was convinced that our issue might not be that simple. I needed to do more research.
I knew that I didn’t have a lot of ground to stand on — I typically approach my own feelings with one of two tools: stuffing or logic. On some occasions, I’ll use both or a combination of the two.
If you would have asked me a few months ago, I would have told you that I rarely just sit in an emotion. That I might feel something strongly but then it passes quickly. But the people around me who really know me, who see me up close and personal and who walk with me, would say that I can be moody and grumpy. Not always, but definitely in waves and definitely for longer than something that just passes quickly.
Something wasn’t adding up in my perception and my actions. So I decided to try an experiment.
I picked the month of February and decided to write a blurb, a poem of sorts, every day about something to do with my feelings and emotions. I thought specifically about my emotions and made an effort to both observe and record things or moments that impacted me over the days and weeks.
I hope and believe that I grew through this experience. In some ways, I think that I finished the month more in touch with my emotions, but also more convinced that I really don’t know much about how to read and interpret what I’m feeling.
Maybe the biggest thing that I learned is that every single one of us has a heart that’s in surgery. We may not think it, and we often try to cover it up, but every single person has their heart on an operating table. This life is the surgeon, and over the months, and years, life is dissecting, stitching, cauterizing, and working on this vital organ that steers and shapes so much of what we think and do.
I normally don’t share a lot of my poetry or personal writings, but I felt like these may be relatable and therefore helpful. Some are goofy. Some are whimsical or random. Some are spiritual. But some are about things that we all have wrestled with at one point or another: sadness, pride, anger, love, longing, dreaming, importance, recognition, and more.
I plan to share the full list of poems over the next few weeks, breaking them up and sharing a few blurbs at a time. In November 2018, I wrote 30 poems in 30 days and titled that catalog as The Feelings of A Mind In Reflection.
I’ve put together 28 more under the title The Thoughts of A Mind in Surgery.
I hope that you can see something of yourself in these writings. I hope that these words help remind you that you are not alone and that we all need a place to process in and through our emotions.
My jaw hurts.
I know that doesn’t sound like a lot but for me, the pain is representative of the weight of my anxiety.
You see, people tend to carry their stress in many different places but for me, it’s my jaw.
I can feel the way it builds up, the small and subtle aches that indicate something bigger is at work within the chemical composition of my mind. I’ve come to know the different levels, the minor throbs that turn into dull relentless pains, the way a spark often starts small but grows up into flames.
So that is why I tell you that my jaw hurts.
If my life is hidden, how can I compare myself to others?
If my life is hidden, how can I be anxious of my visibility, my promotion, my recognition, my awards or accolades?
If my life is hidden, how can I listen to voices that should have no power to find me?
If my life is hidden, shouldn’t I be only hearing the words of the person who knows where I’m hiding?
Waking up, the swirling grey clouds lingered low outside my window. I groggily shifted through my routine, like an automaton getting wound up by the turnkey in my back.
I step outside, the mist hung dense, washing everything around in a soft hue of shadow and moisture. It’s the kind of wetness that settles and clings to anything and everything it touches. Not heavy enough to soak through, but constant and lingering, so that it’s nearly impossible to move without feeling its saturation.
I get in my car, clicking my windshield wipers on to no avail. The fog seems to press in all the more. Light barely cuts through, heat similarly fails to fight back against the heavy cloak.
I sit there, in my car, unable to move, full of hesitation and uncertainty. I realize then that this is how my heart often feels — wrapped in a weight of sorrow and stunted vision. These swirling grey clouds are mine, both in heart and in head. When I clear one, I think I’ll be able to clear the other.