The thing about emotion is it can make or break you. I didn’t understand this until my 30’s, where I realised I’d spent so many years beating myself up in my head, I began to see to myself as a failure.
I’d failed at relationships, failed at generating wealth, failed at having a meaningful life and failed at doing what I enjoyed most – making a living out of writing.
I’d made so many bad decisions in my life I could no longer see the good ones. A couple of years on from that time, with my recent move to Microsoft I was experiencing such a culture shock I was suffering from stress, while at the same time a mountain bike accident had hurt my neck so bad I needed surgery. Life was difficult and I was responding in the wrong way, by beating myself up with negative self talk.
While all this was going on I met someone who changed everything for me, her name was Mandie and we’re now married, living in Denmark, raising our 2 boys while enjoying what life throws our way.
What Mandie reminded me of is the thoughts in my head turn me into who I am.
She practised yoga everyday, lived her life based on the principles of Buddhism and lit up any room she entered. There was no way I was going screw this up, I had met the person I wanted to marry (before Mandie I didn’t even believe in marriage).
So I invested everything in changing for the better and making sure Mandie didn’t go away. I showed her the real me, not the person I told myself I was through self talk, or the person I faked being in order to try and be interesting.
It wasn’t easy, as I’d been like a Jekyl and Hyde for most of my life. The cliché gemini, where I would easily adapt to any environment and person I was with. I would fake being extroverted, fake being empathic, fake being concerned, fake being in love and fake enjoying things I didn’t really enjoy. My life was stressful and I needed to be at one with who I really was and not care so much about fitting in.
On our first date I remember choosing to be me, so through conversation I told her I collected comics, played and worked in video games, liked watching cartoons and didn’t go out partying anymore as preferred to read books and play with my guitars.
Usually I hid this stuff as figured no attractive woman would find any of those qualities interesting. Luckily I was wrong and the leap of faith I took all those years ago was worth it.
Loving comics, reading books and not liking clubbing does not make me boring, it makes me original and Mandie saw something interesting in me, something genuine. I was being genuine and it actually added to her attraction towards me. So we saw each other again and again and now have 2 amazing children we’re raising together (with those same Buddhist principles she taught me when we began dating).
So what about emotion? Emotion has a beginning and an end. It breaks you when you don’t understand this. When I feel an emotion now, I purposefully remind myself of this, and that this time shall pass. I also remind myself daily about the absence of emotion i.e. when I’m not feeling angry, hurt or overjoyed. Recognising the absence of an emotion reminds me that change is constant and we are not fixed. I’m not happy all the time and that’s ok, I’m not angry all the time and that’s good.
Emotion is a rollercoaster, it’s messy, contradictory and true. Without it we don’t learn, progress or connect. It took me 30+ years to understand this, and I’m grateful I discovered it when I did.