My best friend and I call it “the gigs.” It begins with innocent laughter at a joke or situation and quickly spirals into tear-streamed faces, choppy breaths, and uncontrollable giggles. Usually “the gigs” are accompanied by togetherness, a funny story, and pleasant camaraderie. But, I have been known to get the gigs in less than ideal situations.
And in those moments, you only have one choice: focus all your energy on something sad. Something boring. Something neutral. Try really, really, really hard to stop feeling the giggly, happy emotion you’ve locked in on.
I remember watching a movie in an elementary school assembly once and something happened in the movie that made me want to cry. In fact, I’m sure if I had been watching the movie alone, in my home, I would have cried. But in front of my classmates? No way.
And in those moments, you only have one choice: focus all your energy on something joyful. Something awe inspiring. Something silly. Try really, really, really hard to stop feeling the nostalgic sadness you’ve locked in on.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how we process big emotions and what it means to truly feel through them.
Do we downplay disappointment by acting like we weren’t that excited for whatever disappointed us?
Do we gaslight shame by convincing ourselves that someone else experienced something worse?
Do we disregard heartache by selectively remembering past grievances and hurts?
The other day I was chatting with a friend who was feeling a bit under the weather. “Water and rest,” I told them. “My antidote for everything.”
What is my antidote for loneliness? Perhaps calling a good friend or thinking of a happy family memory. What about a stressful day at work? Perhaps a favorite mug of tea and a walk around the park.
What about a broken heart? A pint of ice cream? A movie marathon with your besties? A loud playlist of empowering songs that remind you that you are soooo much better off?
My friend and I used to joke about how “break up songs are my favorite genre of music.” They are fun to dance to while sweeping the kitchen or baking your 3rd batch of chocolate chip cookies. And at the same time.. I will not hold onto anger as an antidote for sadness.
I will not let anger be my antidote for heartache. For shame. For disappointment. I will not harden myself to anger so as not to allow myself to feel the gentle lull of sadness. I will not default to anger when what I really feel is confusion or yearning or hurt.
That doesn’t need to be my default. Or rather, there doesn’t need to be any default. Perhaps each negative experience is simply an opportunity to live through big emotions… to open up your heart and know that it’s going to keep beating.