I have a sign that hangs on the wall in my living room that says, “All Emotions Are Beautiful”. I call it a sign for lack of a better word, but I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. It’s not like the signs that hang in restaurant bathrooms that say, “All employees must wash their hands before returning to work”, it’s more like a piece of art. The words are hand painted in cursive, and surrounded by a gold frame. I found it a few years ago, while I was browsing a shop full of trinkets. I wanted to buy everything in the store that day, but bargained with myself and ended up leaving with just the sign. As far back as I can remember, I’ve been told that I’m “too” emotional, so this phrase spoke right to my soul, in all caps. ALL EMOTIONS ARE BEAUTIFUL. If it was true, that all emotions are beautiful, then I must be beautiful too.

I’ve always been the most emotional person in any group of friends that I’ve been in. Emotional is not a nicer way to say “dramatic”, or a code word for “sad”. Just because I am an emotional person, doesn’t mean that drama follows me around everywhere, or that I’m a problem causer. It just means that I feel what I feel, when I feel it, and I feel it BIG. My emotions aren’t always convenient. They don’t always make sense. But they are my own, and when lumped all together, they make me who I am. A better friend, a better daughter, a better wife, and someday, I hope they make me a better mother.

Here are some reasons why, on any given day, I might be crying:

  • -I’m thinking about Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder’s breakup.
  • -Went to QT to get a Sponge Bob ice cream bar and they were all out.
  • -I thought about my sweetest and best cat that died.
  • -Remembered the scene in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when Harry says, “It’s not Hogwarts without you, Hagrid.”
  • -I just realized that I will never be okay with my arms.
  • -Remembered the time I thought I was gonna have my first kiss but when I showed up at the place I was supposed to meet the guy he was kissing my best friend instead.
  • -Thought about my actual first kiss.
  • -Money problems.

Emotions can be kind of exhausting. And if we don’t get a grip on them, they can control our lives. I love that I’m a big feeler of things happy and sad, but at times the sadness is a little too much. Sometimes I’m so sad that I leave things for too long. Like clothes on the floor, or spots on the bathroom mirror. I see them there, I know they don’t belong and that I need to clean them up, but I don’t clean them up. I just leave them. I’ll stare at a stack of books that I bought myself, with intentions of reading them all. I really hate that; not finishing what I start. It makes me feel disappointed and sorry, only i don’t know what I’m sorry about. That’s the worst part. The only thing worse than feeling something is not knowing why you’re feeling it.

If you’re like me, your emotions won’t always have a name and they won’t always serve a purpose. It’s important to feel things, even big things, but it’s more important to learn how to control these feelings so that they don’t suffocate you. You want to feel, but you want to still be you. It took me a long time to be able to control what I feel, and even now I’m not perfect at it. Slowly, over time I’ve learned that I can’t control when I feel things, or what I feel, but I can control how much those things affect me. Sometimes I will evoke emotions out of myself in small doses to practice controlling them. I’ll listen to sad music or watch a movie that makes me cry. Then I’ll scale it back and go for a walk around the block and talk to myself, making up stories as I go. Yes, I am the crazy lady wandering around the neighborhood, and I’m not ashamed of that. I’m empowered by it.

Remember how crazy everyone thought Britney Spears was when she shaved her head? Maybe you’re too young to remember this event, but I’m not. I even remember where I was when I heard that she did it. The tabloids were ruthless to her, they humiliated her and shamed her for having a mental breakdown. I was devastated for her. She was only two years older than I was, and was feeling all the things that I feel, going through things that most everyone goes through, but with millions of people watching and judging her every move. She started her career at 12, supporting her whole family with her paychecks. Her first boyfriend and one-time soul mate had put their relationship on blast to further his career, and whats worse is, it worked! He was legitimate, talented, justified. She was insane, crazy, unhinged. What kind of message did that send? It’s okay to be emotional, but only if the emotions come from a man, and in the form of a killer pop song? What kind of logic is that? A part of me was really envious of the fact that she shaved all of her hair off. At the time, I didn’t even think that was that crazy of a thing. It kind of seemed logical to me, I guess. For so long she was this perfect, beautiful, blonde haired, blue eyed money maker; it made sense to me that when she finally broke, she’d decided to start with her hair.

Emotions are a gift. They’re what make us soft, and empathetic to others’ situations. They’re what fuel the best songs and movies. Can you imagine if Adele was ashamed of her emotions instead of allowing herself to be empowered by them? I can’t even think about that actually, because it’s too overwhelming for a Wednesday morning. Adele isn’t the only example that works here. Imagine life without any of the best writers, painters, or actors. How many of your favorite books, songs, etc would exist? Probably not a lot. Don’t get me wrong, mindless television shows and songs have their place. I myself am a huge fan of bubblegum pop and reality tv, but only in small doses. If it was all we had, we’d never feel anything real at all.

One of the scariest things we can do as human beings is share our experiences and our emotions with others. Being more open about these things removes the shame that is so often attached to feeling, and it can bond us with people we wouldn’t normally bond with, even with people you don’t like! I often think about those people. You know, the ones I don’t like. The ones who have been awful to me. We all have them, and that’s normal. When you strip away all the ways that you are different from another person, you’re left with the few things that you share in common. And that allows you to better understand why they do what they do, or why they’ve treated you the way they have. It doesn’t mean you’ll be friends with them, but it does humanize them.

Sometimes I’ll have a cry right in the middle of hanging out with my husband. We will be having the best time, laughing or eating pizza or playing Bananagrams and I’ll just think about the fact that he’s going to die someday. I know it sounds crazy, and I know it sounds morbid. I’m very aware of these things, and I know I have to get a grip on myself. I’m working on it! I’m so lucky that he’s not the type of person who freaks out when someone cries, because we would have broken up after like two weeks. Almost constantly, I worry about what kind of a mother I will be. I don’t want to smother my kids, or be the weirdo mom who cries at everything. I want to be the mom who understands what her kids are going through, and encourages them to be who they are. I want to be the mom who cries with them but also the mom who makes them laugh because she makes up ridiculous songs about going to sleep or waking up or doing homework. I want to use my emotions to create things that help people, but I don’t want to feel so much that I lose myself. Life is all about balance, and in some ways I’m still trying to find it. I won’t ever have a psychotic break that ends with me shaving my head in a random barber shop (probably), but I will continue to struggle with my emotions like I always have. I guess I’ll just have to chart my breakdowns the old fashioned way,

Through spots on my mirror and clothes on my floor…
Popsicles eaten and DVDs left out of their cases…
Books purchased but never read…
Songs on repeat…
Words in my draft folder, never sent.

There’s so many emotions in the world, you guys. And me, I feel them all.

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