Saturday, December 14, 2013

All the Feelings

By the time you're in your forties, you've accumulated so many pesky feelings. And you've realized that some of the feelings contradict others. But you're sophisticated enough at last to understand that contradictions can and do exist perfectly peacably together, that paradoxically contradiction is not contradictory.

Of course the season that contains the feelings is winter, and its most representative day is Christmas. 

Last week my brother commented on a post I'd written about no one really knowing you the way your family of origin once knew you, because your family of origin knew you before you were even a you to know. Your parents, your siblings saw you before your self had solidified into something consistent and true. They watched as chrysalis became butterfly. No, they helped turn chrysalis into butterfly, its distinctive colors and patterns determined in part by their influence.

In the post I lamented that there was no one left to help me remember Christmas 1971 or Thanksgiving 1982. But obviously I was wrong, because my brother was there.

"Here's what happened on both those holidays, Sarah," he reminded me. "Mom drank too much champagne, turned red, and left the room in the middle of the meal, announcing as she did that she needed to take a shower."

I laughed, because he was so right, and because families are nothing if not inexplicable.


Today is the first anniversary of the shootings in Newtown, CT executed by a boy who took a classroom's worth of shining first- and second-graders from us. Children who were still chrysalises. (Feelings.) On Wednesday my younger child will be twelve years old. Not, in fact, a child, nor even chrysalis. (Feelings.) This will be my fifth Christmas without my mother. (Feelings, these ones comfortably contradictory.) One of my last Christmases with my older son still at home with us. (Feelings.) 

Sometimes I wonder how it is that we manage to walk about without all our feelings spilling out onto the ground for the world to see.

But then I consider Adam Lanza, and I realize that some of us live and die not knowing how to feel all the feelings, and then here I am, floored by more feelings. 

I dream of a world in which we might scatter our feelings like bread for the birds and have them taken up by those like Lanza, who realize only after gobbling them up, greedy and furtive, that they'd been unwittingly starving for just this: the chance to feel, and embrace, everything messy, real, and uniquely human.

And I hope that somewhere, somehow, twenty children are learning how to become themselves, guided by six capable teachers old and wise enough to feel all the feelings.


Mary Gilmour said...

So true! Love the things you say about what you feel

Linda said...

Love your words.

sullimaybe said...

Merry Christmas.

alejna said...

Beautiful, Sarah.

I am full of feelings today, also. I keep having to tuck them away for later, though, due to Important Deadlines. But they sneak up on me from time to time, in all their powerful messiness. Thank you for the reminder that it is so valuable to let ourselves feel.

Christine said...

My December feelings are always so mixed, so confused. Love ya. xo

kelley @ magnetoboldtoo said...

so many bittersweet feelings in one post.

Woman, you are a master.


Amanda said...

As always, you make the words and emotions dance.