This Aversion to Things That Require Feeling

It was the lovely Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo who taught me about feeling. In one musical theater class a thousand years ago, she said you needed to be aware of all the things around you, to remember how everything felt. And then you tuck these memories away into a chest inside of you, so that you can always go back and look through it when necessary.

You need to remember how sand feels in between your toes, how the morning smells, the sweetness of cotton candy, that devastating heartbreak, the taste of that first kiss. Close your eyes and take everything in, memorize them, burn them into the back of your mind so that you never forget.

She told us that you will be able to use all of these things one day, when a certain role called for them. You should be able to pull out whatever emotion or experience you need to be true to your character. Don’t forget anything, use it all, she said.

This was fantastic advice, one of so many she shared with us. Some of my classmates have gone on to become great actors, performing internationally even. I’ve taken a different path, although i still perform for a living. And most times, i still take that advice to heart.

Unfortunately, there was a time when i didn’t know how to control it. I was so obsessed with memorizing emotions and moments and things that it overwhelmed me. I suddenly found myself feeling a little bit more than i should. I attached quickly to characters and couldn’t easily let go. Music would send me into an avalanche of thoughts that drowned me. Books, songs, films, other people’s experiences – it got into my head, under my skin, flopping around my belly for weeks on end. These were some of the most interesting and dark days of my life.

In recent years, i realized that i couldn’t live like that, always feeling too much. And somehow, i’ve developed this aversion to anything at all that involved emotions. I’ve chosen to stick to movies with explosions rather than emotions. It’s also made it hard for me to finish books with heartbreaking endings, or listen to songs that tell tragic stories. I’m always so afraid of falling back into my whirlpool of emotions, where nothing was still and my mind was messy.

But i know it’s a terrible thing, this aversion. My reaction to things are now so delayed. I have very few arguments with my significant other, but when we do fight, it’s about all of these things that he had no idea where even happening. And this is only because, neither did i. When i start feeling sad, unappreciated or taken for granted, i push the feelings so far back into my head that i forget them for a little while. And then they pile up and eventually explode out of my head, catching those around me unawares.

I’m in the process of learning how to balance it. This wanting to be hard and the need to process emotions properly. But it’s not easy, and i feel like i still need to walk with string tied around my wrist, so if i ever walk into quicksand again, i can still be pulled out. It may seem trivial, when you read this. But if anyone out there has ever felt what it’s like to disappear in your own mind… well, here’s to you and your long journey out of there. I’m still walking towards the light, and i sure do hope i see you on the other end.

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