These days I wear my heart on my sleeve but it took a few decades to get there. Hiding my emotions from others or altering them to get a desired response is a useful and necessary skill, one I’m quite practiced at, however, I now realize attempting to ignore my passions or repress my reactions from myself is one of the most unhealthy choices I can pursue. For years my reflection stirred nothing but apathy. As a young man I never looked past my own eyes in the mirror, the thought never occurred. Curiosity for what I was past flesh and blood held almost no interest, and so I went about my days in a constant loop of mostly hedonistic pastimes.
I did read, draw, and write on rare occasions, but as time wore on my withdrawal from everything I used to love from a cerebral perspective eventually shrank into distant memory. My existence became extremely superficial. Television and movies ate up a large chunk of mindless time-wasting. Alcohol, of course, sped up the slowing down of my humanity. Projects and pursuits I used to get excited over lay in corners, boxes, and shelves, covered in dust, and fading from memory. All this served to dull my senses and separate me from anything resembling abstract thought. I had nothing to look forward to nor did I have any interest in creating anything anticipatory.
My vocabulary simplified to match my emotional range. Everything was fine or okay. I really had no ups and downs unless you count going from being relieved I didn’t die one day, to wanting to the next. Describing my life was detached from actually feeling it. I walked around for years totally numb, unable to connect inner interpretation to outer situations. My spirit was buried, unable to function. All I was was existence without substance, a shadow of reality.
Getting back to a place of authentic expression took a lot of work. When I first cut the rubber band binding my inner monologue, it burst forth with unexpected energy. This led to bipolar behavior for quite some time. My highs were extremely high, and my lows matched them. Like a ball bouncing from a great height, my passions finally found a somewhat normal rhythm and settled into manageable patterns. There are still deep end experiences these days, but they’re rare and pass quickly. I think the initial danger, when I finally embraced a dynamic lifestyle, was the temptation to align too much with becoming either intensely negative or overly optimistic. Either one of these roads could easily have been one step too far and I would have passed a point of no return. A bitter, hostile attitude towards life had a genuine appeal since it feeds the ego and mine was already well developed, but magnifying this aspect of my personality would have been suicidal. On the other hand, looking at life through “rose colored glasses” also presented alluring temptations. I could go about my business with no concerns about the future whatsoever; however, “blind faith” can be a dangerous journey, one that keeps my eyes looking skyward instead of forward. Luckily, I found a comfortable alternative to either of these two routes. Surprisingly, it’s NOT a middle road, but rather a different one.
I’ve often referred to myself as a “pro-optimist” which isn’t even a real word, but it really does describe how I move through my days. I’m usually highly optimistic as long as I’m actively investing in my ambitions. This path normally allows me to check and balance my emotional state. When I’m involved, blame is absent and responsibility is active. Yes, there’s no doubt most life’s “game” is comprised of random events, but when I have a hand in my own future it (usually) allows me to manipulate key elements, most importantly, my own attitude. As an example, I can be happy everything turned out well, OR I can be pleased I now know what not to do should similar situations arise. Granted, the aforementioned outcome is preferable, but either way my perceptions coupled with direct actions make for a recipe that cannot disappoint. If I look at things in this manner, there is no such thing as failure, and my emotional state has no choice but to align with satisfaction either way. Please note I cannot take this same approach if I am totally separated from an event, which is way I insist on participating in my own life.
Becoming desensitized to life went hand in hand with my subconscious choice to live in a strictly reactive fashion. Once I chose an active life, I had no alternative but to become emotionally adept. I wonder if the same is true for others who were just as lost as me? The title of this entry is not asking how the reader feels, it’s asking “how does one learn to feel?” I know how I did, and it’s one of the skills that keeps me enthusiastic about living.
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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood