Emotions and Perspective
In life we often find ourselves riding an emotional roller coaster. We get to experience incredibly high highs with love, light and laughter, which can be followed by depressingly low lows with death, darkness and despair. Of course there are all kinds of levels in between. Granted, they make pills these days to temper the extreme nature of human emotion, but to a certain extent I believe those peaks and valleys are part of our life experience and make being part of this crazy world worth it.
What I’m not generally accustomed to is experiencing the extremes in such a short period of time. In the last 48 hours I have had the (privilege??) to ride that roller coaster in a way I’m not sure I ever have, in two very different areas of my life. While part of my brain has been going WTF??? the majority of my thoughts at the moment are full of clichés such as “Everything happens for a reason” and “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” and “When fate closes a door she opens a window”—I know, trite, but all true.
I debated for a while about whether to write this at all, or how much to write about (given that some of it is still raw and a little embarrassing), but not being one to usually censor myself I figured why start now?
Two days ago I plunged to the bottom hill of that roller coaster. I found myself at the end of a rather lengthy friendship that meant a great deal to me. So why did it end? Simply because one of us fell in love with the other and the feelings were not reciprocated. (Quit being coy LD and admit that YOU were the one who fell!) Fine, I fell in love with someone who didn’t fall back. While I would really like to say that we could still be friends, I discovered that the pain associated with unrequited love was more than I could bear. So we said goodbye.
Sounds simple and easy right? It was. With the aid of a few really good friends who hugged me while I sobbed during the day. A friend who took me out to eat a great meal complete with an apple mojito and Irish coffee. Not to mention the world’s best BFF who made me put down the bottle of wine I was working my way through and took me out with her so I could talk and cry and talk and laugh at her daughters’ antics. Oh, and of course the worm in the bottom of the tequila bottle—he’s my other BFF.
Which is all to say, no, it isn’t easy to say goodbye to someone you actually love. It is the exact opposite. It is excruciatingly painful to fall hard for someone and then actually choose NOT to have them in your life. But there are times, and sadly this was one of them, where staying in a relationship (even a platonic one) with someone you love hurts you MORE than saying goodbye, no matter how desperately we may wish it not to be so—and I do.
Timing is an interesting thing. After experiencing this low, I had to get myself together enough to be fit for public company. The following night my high school held a 30 year anniversary celebration. I went to a very small, prestigious school that began as an experimental model 30 years ago and is now one of the most academically elite schools in the country. It boasts a 100% graduation rate, a 100% college acceptance rate and the graduating class of 2011 was awarded over $18 MILLION in scholarships (keeping in mind that classes at this school are under 100 students—I believe 2011 numbered just over 80 students…so you’re talking an average of $225,000 in scholarship money per student).
Enough bragging—my point is the celebration has been planned for a long time and my ticket was purchased a month and a half ago. So while I was not exactly in a happy, social frame of mind, I was going regardless. And boy and I glad I went.
As low as I felt with my “breakup” (I characterize it with air-quotes because it seems odd to me to call the end of a relationship that never moved to a romantic level a breakup) is as high as I felt last night. The feelings of being surrounded by my schoolmates is difficult to comprehend for people who didn’t live the experience we lived. There is a common bond between us that reaches regardless of whether you were in the same graduating class or not. I found myself talking, laughing and dancing with people who graduated a decade before I did, sharing the same stories as if we’d been there the same years. Because we are talking about a school of less than 400 students TOTAL, that was founded by people with one goal—to provide the absolute best, most rigorous, public school education possible, no matter what it took—Excellence was all that was acceptable. We were told that we would not be allowed to “wallow in mediocrity” because we were better than that. The level of drive and determination that was instilled in us forced us, students and staff alike, to be an incredibly close knit group.
What I realized last night was that it didn’t matter if it was someone I actually shared classes with or not, everyone in that room cared about everyone else in that room. The values we were taught have withstood the test of time. One of the core pillars of that value system was that above all else, we are a family—in fact we had two school songs…our very traditional Alma Mater and then the song “Family”. In that room I had the honor of celebrating our 30 years with my family. Some of whom I never met before last night, but all of whom were glad I was there and vice versa. It did not matter that if we’d never laid eyes on one another or were people that saw each other every day for those four years. The feeling of family was the same.
By the time I arrived home (at almost 1 am) I was literally basking in the glow of who I am and where I come from—some of which, quite frankly, I’d forgotten. It then struck me how interesting it was that I could experience such different emotional states in such a short period of time. But the fact is that life is an adventure. It is going to give you amazing blessings and horrible curses. But it is the Yin and Yang of the universe that makes it worth living. Is it possible to really experience happiness if you don’t know what sadness feels like? I don’t believe it is.
I do believe that our lives are a balancing act between the extremes of emotion. The trick is learning how to not exist on either end of the spectrum, recognizing that we have to move back and forth constantly. It is just part of our intrinsic nature.
Now while I’m feeling more upbeat and positive today than I was when I was swigging wine from a bottle (which by the way doesn’t actually FIX anything, just numbs it for a VERY short period of time…and is oh so classy) I recognize that the pain isn’t gone and I didn’t magically cure myself of unrequited love—but I do perversely adore that I can use that Shakespearian phrase accurately in my life at the moment. However the universe was able to provide me with a phenomenal balance to that pain that was just as extreme on the opposite end of the spectrum and has allowed me to pull my head together enough to become functional again. Experiencing the pain and the happiness has enabled me to appreciate both and given me perspective on the most important thing in my life—me. Because if we’re not taking care of ourselves first, what good are we to the rest of the world?
The bottom line is even if our lives aren’t always exactly what we pictured them to be or following a plan, even if we find ourselves riding that emotional roller coaster more often than we’d like, they are still our lives to live. Whether you ride through with your eyes open or closed, screaming in terror or joy, focus on the highs or lows, flourish or perish is up to you. Our lives are precious…we need to own them and all that comes with them.