My sweet little man, each time I sit down to write what I know, I wonder if I’ll be able to do my emotions justice by my words. Emotions are the best part of being who we were born to be; they’re the colors we use to draw outside all the lines, baby.
You’re going to find, as you move through this world, that emotions are as differently presented as fingerprints. While joy and anger aren’t unique emotions, filter them through different eyes of perspective, different hearts by which they are expressed, and suddenly they can seem foreign from what you’ve experienced with your family or close friends.
And that’s okay.
I grew up within a family that was quick to fight with humor, but slow to express the truth of the emotion behind the painful laughs. I saw my friends avoid tough situations with their parents because of strong emotions the conflict would present. I saw joy expressed from others with small smiles and handshakes. I saw hurt suppressed with a shrug of the shoulder. I saw fights based on a prideful heart that couldn’t apologize for feelings hurt. I saw accomplishments hidden for fear of upsetting those who had nothing to celebrate.
Each year that I walked closer to adulthood, I told myself that my household, my small family, would be free to feel whatever it was they needed to feel at the moment they needed to feel it.
I pray the same for you.
Your feelings, the emotions tugging at your smile or plowing your furrowed brow, should be honored as part of the mystery of what makes you, you.
When your father was a young boy and his emotions would get the better of him, and he’d want to lash out in anger, I would remind him that what he was feeling was valid, it had a place in how he figured things out, that his strong emotions could be the guideposts of his actions, but only after examined and understood; I advised that unrestrained emotions should never lead him to further his, or others, pain. There is a fine line between validating what you are feeling and letting your emotions be the excuse for bad behavior. Regret is a hard pill to swallow when you let your emotions get the best of you.
That’s the thing about emotions: you gotta let them be, you gotta let them get the shimmy shakes out, you gotta let the rage, rage, and then, when some time has passed, you can use what you’re feeling to guide you to sound decisions.
Uncontrolled emotion, whether easy or uncomfortable, is never good. There is great strength in being the boss of your emotions. Be the boss, baby.
When someone tells you that what you’re feeling is bogus or selfish or annoying, you can bet they are uncomfortable with feeling their own emotions. It’s a statement about them, rather than you. Always remember that.
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You are allowed to feel it all. It’s what you do with your emotions that’s key.
When you grieve, folks may tell you that you’re taking too long to get over your pain. Ignore them and feel it all.
When you’re on the mountain top, folks may tell you that you’re making others see their valley. Ignore them and feel it all.
When you’re angry, others may tell you to forgive before you’ve processed your emotion. Ignore them and feel it all.
When you’re sad, depressed or lonely, others may tell you are being self-centered and insist you try to think positively. Ignore then and feel it all.
My point is that it is natural and healthy to feel all the emotions we’re born to feel, because we’re human and our emotions serve their purpose when we allow them the space they occupy without assigning guilt for doing what is a natural process: being present in the now and feeling.
I’ve lived through emotional highs that enveloped me in its breath-catching expanse and I’ve lived through emotional lows that I thought physically impossible to rebound from. The constant throughout both: I allowed myself the love and care I needed to be in the moment of each emotion, until I no longer felt the need to express either.
That’s what it comes down to, baby: love yourself enough to push through this temperamental life, knowing that to live this amazing life is to feel. Some days will feel angry as hell, some days ebullient from the grace of goodness that is your life.
Feel. It. All.
If someone tells you otherwise, if someone tells you it’s a sign of weakness to cry when you’re deliriously happy or to show righteous anger at injustice, know that the statement, the observation they are making, is about their lack of faith in themselves, at their lack of courage. That’s right, courage. Anyone who feels all the things will tell you the same: it takes courage to accept that our emotions, and the challenges they present, are the vibrant colors of our lives.
I pray you feel it all in this life, Sweet E.
Feel it all, baby.