There are few things that truly catch me off-guard. For the most part I find that my life is fairly predictable. I go through my day-to-day routines with a little bit of variation here and there, but usually it’s nothing I can’t handle. Of everything I deal with on a regular basis it is my emotional state that can throw me for a loop in a split second and can last until either I fall asleep or something or someone snaps me out of it. I understand that emotions are there to help you deal with what life throws your way, but there are times I feel like I am one-woman team in a lopsided game of dodgeball.
I had a real eye-opening moment when I watched the movie “City of Angels” for the first time. In this movie, Nicholas Cage plays Seth, an angel who finds himself drawn to Meg Ryan’s character, Maggie, who happens to be a doctor working in a hospital. Being born an angel, Seth has never experienced what it is like to taste food, touch a human, or feel emotion. As they find themselves spending more time together, Seth tries to understand what it means to be human. In one scene he asks Maggie why people cry. As a doctor, Maggie gives him a very technical answer stating that the tear ducts overact due to emotions. Seth asks her why they overact. She doesn’t have an answer. I’ve always loved his response. He says to her, “Maybe… maybe emotion becomes so intense your body just can’t contain it. Your mind and your feelings become too powerful, and your body weeps.” This movie is full of more moments like this and I’d highly recommend it, but the first time I saw this scene, it got me thinking about emotions. Sure, I’ll cry at a sad movie. I’ll laugh at a funny joke. I always get nervous before getting on a roller coaster. What fascinates me is how my body reacts to what I’m experiencing. Until watching that scene, I never thought about the why of emotion as it’s something that most of us take for granted. Unless you’re an actor…or trying to get out of a speeding ticket…you don’t have to work at crying as it is something that just happens. But how does this really work? How does your body know that each time you feel sad, the correct physiological reaction is to cry and frown? When you’re happy, how does it know to smile and laugh? Obviously, it was most likely a learned reaction as we watched others do this before us. So what about the first person to cry?
All my life, I’ve never really felt like I’ve been able to control my emotions as well as others. I guess I just tend to wear my heart on my sleeve and can find that something that might not affect the average person can be intensified by how I react to it. There are so many times that I wish I could just turn off my emotions. Whether it be from me trying to tell a joke that I can’t make it through without cracking up (thanks for passing down that trait Dad!!) or losing someone I’ve come to care about very much, I often think how much easier it would be not to feel so strongly. What would it be like to be able to just turn off my feelings temporarily? Just imagine not being lonely, depressed, bored or even frustrated. Sure it would most likely lead to a downturn in our society as it is emotions like compassion and empathy that help us learn right from wrong. Regardless of this, because of how strongly my emotional response can be, a break from feeling, even for a few minutes, would be very welcome at times. I’m not talking about turning it off so I could commit a crime as I’m too stupid to be a criminal (I watch CSI after all!!). I just mean during those times that things seem overwhelming and some emotional distance would help me see the big picture a little more clearly it might just come in handy.
Edmund Burke, a British Statesman and Philosopher, once said “The first and simplest emotion which we discover in the human mind, is curiosity.” From the time we’re born, we begin developing our fascination with everything around us as we experience things for the first time. I think what is important is that we never lose that sense of curiosity. After all, it was once said, “Curiosity was framed. Ignorance killed the cat.” It is most likely for this reason that I continue to write and learn, and most of all to truly experience what comes my way. Life was never guaranteed to be easy, but it is what we make of it…at least that’s how I feel.