Leaving work today I was overcome with emotion. I couldn’t name it—anxiety, joy, anger—it just tore through me like a wraith whistling in and out of my body. My skin was tingling, my face was warm, and I quickened my pace to the train. With I guess a kind of morbid curiosity, I turned the music in my headphones all the way up just to see what would happen. Hundreds of people walking by me in the vaulted concourse of the luxury mall next to the World Trade Center turned silent and, of course, this emotion vibrated stronger. Tears pressed from behind my eyes just a nameless emotion, type “emotion” into your browser, hit enter, and I would be there somewhere as one part of its definition.
It was a song I knew well, by heart, by a band called Wolf Parade (the song is “I’ll Believe In Anything” playing from a Spotify playlist of mine filled with hundreds of songs that believe are perfect, which is a kind of brief therapeutic sage cleanse I do after a day of listening to only new, not-yet perfect music at work). It’s one of the great indie-rock songs of despair, one of those chiming anthems that sounds across the great field of love and war, a huge jam, a big mood. In that moment of emotional crisis, I met the song at its histrionic level, the constant bell-toll that hulks it forward like some alarum ringing in a small village. There. Ok there. Now this emotional equation was balanced. This is the life of a pisces, I’m told.
Since I quit acting almost 10 years ago I’ve had no real professional use for expressing my true outward emotions. If anything, these feelings are a net negative in office environments both to superiors and subordinates, and not exactly useful in writing where the text should carry the emotion but its author should, perhaps, remain strong and austere. Let the words do the talking. What is an emotional man (I know, even writing that feels hideous) that isn’t consigned to the lower echelon of masculinity such as the “weepy horny beard guy” or the too-eager hyperactive type. How does one fight the stigma of being emotional without succumbing to the very stigma itself. How does one live righteously while suppressing a majority of feelings every day. I’m not sure. I buckle under a wave of stoicism exerted by a history of fathers every day.
One thing I do know is that there are not enough outlets in the day to day life for emotion. I miss blogging, this, I miss being able to map without consequence or aim what I am feeling for no one in particular. It was a good exercise to clarify what that feeling is. We respond all day for other people, to other people, but responding to yourself and wondering why this thing happened and what this emotion meant feels lost. It’s no more self-important than any other online calorie exerted, it just is not as scalable. Writing for pleasure is one way to learn about this, to once again listen without distraction to what you are feeling, to interrogate that, and to tell the story of that emotion, from its wild beginnings to its eventual dissipation hours later.