“How much has to be explored and discarded before reaching the naked flesh of feeling.” –Claude Debussy

I have sometimes been accused of being anti-social. Don’t laugh. It’s true. It happens sometimes. I like being around people, I do. My extrovert ways thrive on the company of others. I love being around my large, rambunctious, hilarious group of friends. They are awesome and it’s always fun to spend time with them. But sometimes, a lot of the times, I just want to be home. I’m a homebody. I like the freedom I have when I’m by myself. I like being in Zoe or my room at home, because even if people are there, I can still escape. I like being able to escape. I don’t like the feeling I get sometimes when I’m with a group of people-the feeling that everything is closing in on me, that I’m stuck, that I’ve done something wrong, the feeling that I can’t escape, I can’t get out. I start to feel very lonely or very scared that all of my feelings are true. Large groups of people freak me out. That’s why I didn’t go to very many school dances or why I only like sporting events when I’m in my seat. The fighting through the crowds, the jostling, the potential that I might lose the people that are with me-I panic. I get freaked out. As long as I’m in motion, I’m usually okay. But once I start to feel that I’m disappearing-that’s it. I retreat. I find my happy place and stay there until someone rescues me. Sometimes I hide. If I’m in a position where I can fall asleep without any danger, I fall asleep. Sometimes I just leave.

I understand that this is not the best way to handle things. I should face my fears. I should get over my dislike of crowds and loud noises. And it’s true that sometimes these things affect me more than at other times. At the state fair, I’m good, because I’ve been navigating the fair grounds for as far back as I can remember. I’m pretty comfortable there. If I’m leading, I’m usually okay; because there’s less chance I’ll be lost. But other times, I can’t stand it. My fear of being lost is too great. Control freak much?

But feeling lost, being lost…that scares me so much. Just like when you’re little and you lose your mom in the grocery store and you think you’ve been forgotten. Just that feeling of overwhelming panic. I feel like that sometimes, and I don’t know how to fix it. I don’t know what to do.

I get overwhelmed much too easily. Not just in crowd-control situations, but in everyday life. When I get overwhelmed, I hide. I retreat. I get the hell out of Dodge. I don’t face it. I run. And I really hate that. I don’t often dislike things about myself, but I really wish I could deal with overwhelming situations better. I’m more in control than I used to be, I can handle pressure and stress a lot better than in the past, but sometimes I lose it. I start shaking. Or I can’t stop moving or I stop talking or I talk faster or I can’t breathe. I can almost feel my pupils dilating until I feel like a deer in the headlights. I feel like I’m losing control of the situation. Now granted, this doesn’t happen this drastically every day, or even every week. Usually, I’m on top of things, I’m in control. I’m stable, I’m steady, I can do anything. But every so often, it happens. Sometimes it happens when I’m with a bunch of people or when I’m in a crowd. But it scares me the most when it happens for no reason at all. Take the other day, for instance. I went to bed feeling exhausted and a little quieter than usual, and when I woke up, I had no idea how I felt. Everything was a contradiction. I felt as though all of my emotions had been completely drained, but at the same time, I felt as though every emotion was raging through me. Some people call this hormones; I call it “the gaggle”. Everything is all bunched up together and it scares me because I can’t identify a single emotion. I’m both indifferent and passionate. I want so much to feel something, anything, but I can’t stop shaking because I’m feeling so much.

Now, thankfully, the gaggle cleared up by the afternoon. I felt much better. I felt purged of all my emotions, and I hadn’t even cried. Come to think of it, I haven’t cried in a while. I cried my eyes out a couple weeks ago when I read Tuesdays with Morrie, but I feel like I’m in need of a real sob fest. A non-movie or book induced cry. A real catharsis, like Aristotle was always writing about.

According to my sources, I keep my feelings to myself. Friends are always coming to me and pouring their hearts out, but I rarely reciprocate. I really don’t mind. Talking things through with others helps me figure out my own feelings, even if I never say what’s troubling me. Is it so wrong to want to be discreet about some things? Is it so wrong to not want to burden others with my trivial problems? I truly don’t mind hearing what others have to say and giving my ideas, but when it comes to sharing myself, I prefer to hold back, unless something is really bothering me. But then I run the risk of over-analyzing everything myself.

I’ve got it. There is no way to win. It’s a stalemate-at least for a while. I’m just going to have to go with the flow and wait for everything to figure itself out. It always does. Everything eventually settles. Things that were so enormously important a few days ago pale in comparison to what I’m worrying about for tomorrow. Everything else pales away when I think about the Invisible Children or the families of the recently deceased or even all the babies that will be born this week in the hospital down the street. On senior retreat, one of the teachers reminded us that “life is so much deeper than our feelings.” There are so many more important things than all of the impulses our brain gives us to psych us out. Life is so much more significant. The little things in life, of course, give a great deal of significance, but the big picture of our life is the most magical. As Annie Dillard said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” A life spent agonizing over every infinitesimal detail loses all perspective.

This all reminds me of a poem by one of my father’s favorite authors, Wendell Berry, entitled “The Vacation”.  Here goes:

“Once there was a man who filmed his vacation.
He went flying down the river in his boat
with his video camera to his eye, making
a moving picture of the moving river
upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly
toward the end of his vacation. He showed
his vacation to his camera, which pictured it,
preserving it forever: the river, the trees,
the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat
behind which he stood with his camera
preserving his vacation even as he was having it
so that after he had had it he would still
have it. It would be there. With a flick
of a switch there it would be. But he
would not be in it. He would never be in it.”


We must examine our lives not by the details, but by how much we enjoyed when we lived. That is the best way to analyze life. If I live in the moment, perhaps I can relax, give over control to God, stop panicking about feeling lost, about being in crowds. Perhaps I can free myself from my emotions and simply be. Not give up my emotions, because they add zest to life, but maybe I can stop feeling trapped by them. I know this can be. I can feel it.

Letting it be,


P.S. This is hilarious. Reading back over this post, I realize how wild my train of thought gets sometimes. Over the hours I wrote this, I seriously went in and out of emotion, all while listening to “Spring Awakening” or Joni Mitchell or “West Side Story”. Clearly, these were not the best choices for the giving over of emotion. I’d also like to make it clear that I am not planning on becoming a cyborg. I do not want to become emotionless. However, a little less of the constant analysis would be nice. There. Namaste.

Let’s not forget that the little emotions are the great captains of our lives and we obey them without realizing it.  -Vincent Van Gogh


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