'I'm the kind of person who would rather get my hopes up really high and watch them get dashed to pieces than wisely keep my expectations at bay and hope they are exceeded. This quality has
made me a needy and theatrical friend, but has given
me a spectacularly dramatic emotional life.’- Mindy Kaling, Is everyone hanging
out without me (and other concerns)
I’m a messy person. There are too many wires on my bed, too many creases on the sheets, too many bottles of expired hair products I never used – on my desk, too many half-read books on the floor and wet towels carelessly tossed over new handbags and ironed clothes. And let’s not even get started on the closet. You get the picture – it’s what some people would call ‘typical creative type’s room’ or you know, ‘free spirited.’ I just think it’s an excuse for being a slob. And forgive the digression, but what’s up with everyone calling me 'free spirit' these days? I’ve had at least four or five people call me that in the last month or so and it bothers me. Because they seem to say it like it’s a compliment. I’m sorry but when you say free spirit, I see an unshaven, un-showered, dirty hippie telling everyone to become vegan or something. The term just has this aimless, floating-around quality about it and it upsets my grounded-and-no-nonsense Virgo sensibilities. Because if anything, I’m a grounded spirit.
Anyway. Like I was saying, I don’t enjoy being this person. I’m not one of those people who say ‘I’m messy and I like it that way.’ I don’t. I like my room clean and smelling of something fresh and woody. Like that Issey Miyake fragrance. I like my clothes ironed, folded and hanging neatly in my closet. And I do not like the fact that my bin is always overflowing. It’s just that I’ve tried – really tried - to be that person – but I’ve always failed. Usually, within a couple of hours of getting the room looking like something out of an IKEA catalogue. Okay, maybe not IKEA.
This quality of mine has bothered me for years now – mostly because of aforementioned need for a tidy living space but also because this is a particularly jarring quality in an otherwise extremely-Virgo woman. But I realized in the recent past that I’ve been confusing my inability to keep my room clean with a general lack of organizational skills. Because I thought about it and it turns out, I am freakishly organized. And I mean, to a Monica Geller degree. It’s just that I’m organized about my inner world, not my room.
See, I manage my emotions in the same obsessive-compulsive fashion that some people balance their cheque books, fold their clothes or scrub their bathroom floors. I mean, I know people with severe cleanliness-related OCDs and I’ve seen their fingers twitch – like, literally twitch – upon noticing a speck of dust on their sparkling tiles and I now understand and empathize with that need to immediately reach out and clean it. Because I display the same Type A level of obsession with keeping track of my emotions. Seriously, if you could step into my head right now, you’ll find yourself in a mildly snobbish, art-history museum of sorts with every one of my emotions artistically exhibited on spotless white walls. You’ll find people in there too – all parts of my subconscious – gazing fondly upon every exhibit and poring over its history. Yeah, history.
You see, I’m fascinated by feelings. So while – like Linda Goodman says – I may have ‘emotions that can thunder with feeling,’ I’m also extremely interested in understanding and rationalizing this process. This is why I like to let myself go – raise my hopes and let my heart swell up with expectation – even when I know they’re going to shatter against a rock at 500-something kms/h. This is also why I have no interest in self-preservation whatsoever. People who are preoccupied with protecting themselves can never fully know what it is to be human. And for me as a person, and especially as a writer, it’s a waste of living.
So once I’ve fully participated in the human experience and you know, put my heart through another round of not-so-fun emotions, I like to sit down with my feelings all scattered on the floor – much like someone all set for spring cleaning – and then I get my gloves and forceps out, pick each one up and get to know it. What is its name? Why does it exist? What family does it belong to? Because I’ve noticed emotions always travel in packs. There is a mother emotion – like insecurity, for example, and floating around it are all these little baby emotions or emolings (a word I just made up) – such as jealousy, possessiveness, trust issues, etc. – and they all go in one special colour-coded box. This is a box in my head, of course. Then, I stick pictures of the people related to that Emo Family and stick it on the box. Then I bring out those colourful Post Its and write little notes on how they are all connected and try to make sense of the process and how to overcome it. Rinse, repeat.
At this point, it’s like working in a laboratory. The hours are long, the work is tedious and the results aren’t always reassuring.
But the next part is worth it all. It’s the part where the pain becomes a channel for artistic expression. This is what Bon Jovi meant when he sang ‘Like the poet needs the pain, I need you.’ Without pain, there’d be no music, no drama - no art, whatsoever. Imagine that! The world would just be this dull, arid land filled with Excel-sheet loving left-brained weirdos. Brrr. For me, since comedy writing is what I do, this is the part where everything becomes funny – when my self-pity trips in the bathroom - crying copious amounts while staring at my mascara-smudged face in the yellow light - is no longer sad but dramatic and hilarious. Because once you can make sense of your pain, you can also see the humour in it. And humour, as we all know, is healing.
I used to think that funny people were less prone to emotional drama. But in the last four years, I’ve seen that the opposite is true. I mean, when I look at my own writing, I see that my funniest work is often tied to some deeply-painful situation. I’ve also come to realize that I feel very, very intensely. More intensely than the average human. This means that what might cause sadness in most people, causes me to despair. Disappointment can feel like – and I mean literally, in my chest – someone plucked away a piece of my heart. And any kind of loss can be entirely crippling.
But I also know highs that the average person probably hasn’t even glimpsed at - I’m typically the kind of person who can die of happiness. Love, happiness, hope, loyalty, gratitude, passion, affection – they can all engulf me. It’s a bit like how they describe the process of becoming a vampire in The Vampire Diaries – all the things you felt often as a human, become amplified when you become a vampire. And the temptation (for the vampire) is to completely turn the emotions off (something they can do) because when it gets bad, it gets REALLY bad. I thought it was a beautiful metaphor for the self-preservation theory that everybody’s subscribing to these days. A lot of people have told me that self-preservation is the wiser way to live – “because it’s too damn hard and why should I feel pain when I can choose not to.” I get it. But there’s another way. And you’re going to need another way if you are ever going to create something. Something honest, beautiful and touchable. And yes, powerful.
Actually, you’ll need another way even if you just don’t want to lead an emotionally-stunted half life.
Years ago, when I didn’t have writing – when I had no clue how to rationalize my emotional process and channel all that angst – I wore my emotions all the time. I dumped my drama on other people because I didn’t know another way out of it. That’s why I’m excited about my Emotional Colour Coding Process. I’ve tried it for more than four years and I swear, it works. This way, you can let yourself feel – like, really feel – but no one is ever going to know what’s going on inside. Not until you’ve dealt with it and have a grip on it. In fact, I have people telling me I come across as detached and icy even when I'm "thunder(ing) with feeling." Because now, letting people in is a choice. MY choice.
It's like, your emotions aren’t the boss of you anymore, they’re just signals from within telling you where you are. And once you can see them that way, you can also show them to someone else. And I’ve come to believe that that is real power – when you can show someone who you really are. And once you do that, you’ll see that what you can show one person, you can show the whole world.
And voila. An artist is born (I think).
‘Ordinarily, if she really loves you, you’d be safe to trust the typical Virginian woman with the sexiest man you know on a desert island for a month. For two months? Well, Virgos are human, you know. They are not walking, talking computers. They have hearts warmer than people suspect, and emotions that can thunder with feeling even if they don’t care to rent a billboard to advertise it. The emotional nature of Virgo is controlled, but not nonexistent. Remember that. It will give you courage.’– Linda Goodman, Sun Signs - The Virgo Woman