25 January, 2014
At dusk I walk on a carpet of dead thorns,
the wind through the cottonwoods crashing like a stormy ocean,
With each footstep, asking:
Is this delightful, or terrifying?
The wind whips my face, freezing the insides of my ears.
Then I turn around and it propels me toward a glorious sunset, like a loving father nudging his daughter toward her dreams.
Sometimes I am overwhelmed by this polarity in life –
One moment is so sweet and full of magical coincidence,
The next I am stricken with doubt and fear, startled by pain.
I try to tell myself it will pass.
I try to access the deep part of me who accepts it all and can’t be shaken,
Who knows every mistake is ripe with opportunity and every elation is bound to fade,
Who sees the purpose and benefit of every emotion –
The cottonwood tree that stays rooted through the storm.
But sometimes I can’t quite find that peaceful place, or maybe it just takes a while.
So I wander through the thorny woods,
Feeling very alive,
What is the difference between healthy precaution and living in fear?
Is my joy grounded, or am I deluding myself?
Can I allow these polarities to move through me, in opposite directions, and somehow find a balance?
I’ve been told that it’s possible for extreme emotions to level out and for a kind of even keel to develop. I think it’s true, and I also think that sometimes life just hands you a doozy, or if you believe that each person creates their own experience then I guess you’d say it’s handing yourself a doozy. And it also seems to me that the circumstances of our particular culture aggravate feelings of stress and distemper, to the point of generating a much higher rate of trauma among the people than we are really made for.
One thing I do know from experience is that it rarely pays off to take action when extreme emotions are moving through. Best to just ride the roller coaster, then make decisions after you’ve rolled safely to a stop. Sometimes that is the hardest thing, especially when you’re having trouble accepting the feeling. It just seems like it will never end and you want to DO something about it!
On the other hand, holding things in is really hard. Bottling it up with no way to express it seems to me to be the leading source of muscle tension and disease out there. So the key is: what is the safest outlet? Journaling, breathing, time in a private spot, breathing, prayer, breathing, music, walking – did I mention breathing?
I don’t have it all figured out, but I do think emotions can be kind of beautiful, if we allow that. It’s this dance of letting feelings flow, letting them go, and taking action to remedy imbalance. It’s amazing, really – the stuff great music and poetry are made of, not to mention great people! Putting emotions in perspective that way reminds me that it’s beautiful to be so alive – like the way frozen dew captures the water’s movement between earth and sky. And, if I really learn from my experiences, then they will always be changing, just like the way the water never makes quite the same pattern twice.