“Don’t you think it’s better to be extremely happy for a short while,
even if you lose it, than to be just okay for your whole life?”
– Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveller’s Wife
I am an emotional creature. Many a tear has been shed in my lifetime, that psychological water that flows in streams down cheeks, physical echoes of the yearnings of the heart inside. They accompany movies, books (tell me I wasn’t the only one who bawled for an hour after reading The Time Traveller’s Wife?), songs, weddings, goodbyes, stress, love and pain, and sometimes, the act of crying can be cathartic. A good sob, we’re told, can allow pent-up feelings of sadness, loss or frustration to be set free, leaving more room inside for more positive, forward-moving feelings. But sometimes, being more emotionally sensitive than The Norm can make you look like a total sap.
The same goes for the other end of the spectrum: joy. During my first Skype conversation, after hearing some good news, I was asked: “…Was that a happy clap?” Yes, was the answer – when I hear something awesome, or have something to look forward to, I will run shamelessly up and down my stairs, start applauding, or otherwise have one of those Laura Linney moments in Love, Actually where the compulsion to run around the corner, stamping your feet and squealing like a schoolgirl proves impossible to ignore.
The yawning gulf of my emotional spectrum has been the subject of many a debate with friends and loved ones. “If you didn’t get so excited in the first place,” I’d be told, “then you wouldn’t be so disappointed now!” “Don’t rush into things.” “If you stayed closer to the middle, not too high or too low, you’d be much better off.” I had to wonder. If I tempered myself a little – refrained from showing too much excitement, would things be less disappointing if they didn’t work out? If I didn’t give my whole heart out so openly, would I have saved it such ache in the past? If I didn’t become too emotionally invested in people so quickly, would it be less painful when they moved away? And if I didn’t allow myself to cry so often, at the mundane and the painful, would life be that much easier?
Perhaps. But a bigger part of me says that these are the things that allow you to experience life to the fullest – drinking in every drop; allowing yourself to feel the heights of pure joy even if that means risking the lowest of the low. I’ve heard of many people who’ve worked on themselves, making sure what would be their instinctive, automatic reaction is moderated; socially acceptable, not so extreme, guaranteed to save them from disappointment or funny looks. But is being too emotional such a bad thing? Surely, if naturally, you wanted to shut yourself in your bedroom, hide under a blanket, pound your pillow and wail from the bottom of your lungs, allows all that sadness to escape? We’ve all seen what happens when things get pent-up inside; the feelings of sadness give rise to feelings of anger; as they grow stronger and get further pushed inside, they can only be repressed so much until something snaps. And that’s never pretty. On the flipside, why would anyone deprive themselves from living with their heart caged in by self-constructed walls? Because we’ve been hurt before. Because there’s a risk of everything falling apart. Because people might think we’re strange. I get it. But what we devise to protect ourselves can sometimes deprive us of the heights of happiness. The true depths and heights of human emotion can be amplified when exposed to the outside world, but moderating them takes away the potential for greatness. Why not show the world your true colours, even if that does include jumping up and down and shouting from the rooftops every now and again? When we look back on our lives, do we want to say we lived a sheltered life, never too excitable nor too down, or do we want to be able to say we gave it our all, and lived?
After all, as the old saying goes, it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
Are you, too, an emotional creature? Or do you tend to be more even-keeled? I’m interested to hear your thoughts. 🙂