Given the general strength of my intellectual argumentation and my often strong opinions, it often comes as a surprise to others that my emotional life is seldom quite so clear cut. I generally can, and do, cut a very close line when it comes to parsing language of the mind, the music of the heart is a much more diffiuclt and messy matter for me. The reasons for this are legion, and not specifically the subject of this blog entry (though I have talked about them before and no doubt will in the future as well, as it is regrettably necessary for me to externalize things and mull them over and reflect on them before I can find some sense of closure, paralyzing unpleasant emotions through analysis, as it were). So far, to put it mildly, the past few days have been full of a great deal of unpleasant emotions, and I have fought hard to avoid being too harsh with myself, while also holding myself accountable to the extent necessary, a balance that is tricky to maintain.
Emotional control is a habit I learned early in life. Though I am a person of strong emotions (a fact I am generally honest and open about), the expression of these emotions is often rather awkward. I have a hard time speaking about emotional matters in an articulate manner (at least by my standards), and so I usually end up writing when I am not able to convey emotion through touch or song. Often it takes a fair bit of time for me to catch up with what I am feling, to process everything and to make sense of it, a habit that is deeply ingrained from living my entire life in a deeply threatening and hostile world. How to make that world less hostile and less threatening has been, to put it mildly, a difficult challenge.
When I listen to music, I like to listen to it by myself. The resaon for this is that I tend to find strong resonance with both music and lyrics (which ought not to be too surprising) and I find it uncomfortable to allow myself to be open to feeling what a song has to provide when I am around other people. This is clear liability when the radio plays a song that I happen to relate to closely for personal reasons, and that happens to be a lot of songs (as the song analysis tab on this blog should make clear, or my frequent commentaries on the psalms and other biblical poetry). Even if I express myself openly and publicly, I still like to be by myself when I am processing it in order to present a finished product to the world rather than the often emotionally raw process by which I create.
This afternoon, while I ate dinner awaiting a rather awkward and uncomfortable appointment, I wrote a poem while eating dinner. For a few days, the chorus of “They” by Jem was in my head periodically while I sought to write a song with the title of “Somewhere They Can’t Find Me.” In writing the lyrics (which I did), I had a mental image for the music video of a young strawberry blonde and freckled boy crouched in fetal position. This image proved to be highly ironic, as a song that has been played a lot on the radio recently here in Portland (and no doubt in many other areas as well) had a similar image (albeit less modest than my own mental image) in what few video screenshots I have seen (I have not seen the video yet), the song whose lyrics inspired the title of this post: “Stay” by Rihanna featuring Mikky Ekko, a song that I relate to intensely and have to work pretty hard not to react to when I hear it.
The reason the song relates to me personally is that it is a duet between (I presume) a man and a woman who are singing about a lot of things that resonate with me. For one, I can relate all too well to the situation of the people in the song, which deals with such problems as brokenness, emotional distance, and the fear and longing that result from sharing one’s vulnerabilities with someone else. No doubt these themes resonate with me for the same reason they resonate with many others–the song is wildly popular and not only because it is sung by Rihanna. It is also probably not coincidental that Rihanna herself has a deep personal understanding of abusive relationships herself and has sung about subjects like infidelity and paranoia in her songs, painting a context of an emotional life that is at odds with her generally phlegmatic persona.
There are a few factors that make knowing how to feel about something a tricky task. One of them is a certain disconnect between the visceral feeling and the lag it takes to recognize and understand what is going on. I tend to shut down and become numb a bit too easily during intensely emotional moments, and while I have survived thus far (no small thanks to God, who has been far more merciful to me than I deserve, protecting me from a great deal of evil despite my own native bent to folly in certain aspects of my life), the results have been somewhat complicated in my own life, and have provided their own share of loneliness, including a deep difficulty in relating to other people unless they share a high degree of sensitivity, which usually creates its own problems and difficulties as well.
Another aspect is the predominance of ambivalence within my life. A great deal of my life is spent in tension between opposite pulls, and so maintaining balance and growth is a tricky task in light of the contrary pulls. I suppose this need not necessarily be a bad thing. Reflecting on my life and its context in light of its environment leave plenty of room for mixed emotions. Even the greatest suffering I have endured has provided priceless gifts, and even my moments of greatest pleasure have not been times of unmixed joy without some mitigating fears or anxieties. Perhaps someday I may come to feel more joyful about life, though often I find a peace and serenity that surprises me and that in time may help to fill up the canyons and basins in my life that still exist. In the meantime, every day I work to become a better person, not just for myself but for others as well.