I Wear Not-Feeling Like A Badge

I don’t experience writer’s block often, but it’s almost always when I’m having too many feelings.

I’m not an emotional writer. I care about what I say and how I say it too much to spew only feelings on the page. I wear not-feeling like badge of honor. I am self-righteous in my choice because I am more comfortable controlling what is seen than seeing it.

I’d rather critically consider my feelings, and writing gives me every excuse to step away and appraise myself and others. Writing looks for purpose, and while meaning can give solace, sometimes life is irrational.

But rationalizing others to find the nugget of hope and good and explanation is what I do. It’s what makes me a great listener and talker. I have the desire to understanding a situation or process first and to feel it later when the person is long gone.

I am empathetic without overly inserting myself into the situation. A feeling-less compadre with which to handhold without any messy reciprocity.

I am affectionate and caring or quiet. I am a soft rock upon which my kids easily find footing. My children are shocked when I raise my voice because I so rarely do. Instead, I assess the situation and quiet my mouth while screaming in my head. I meet the need and escape into watching them or writing me until my feelings have stopped.

I am also the parent who is told that my kids need to see me get angry or sad.

I also the person who is told that I need to treat my feelings like kittens. I have to let them in. Acknowledge them. Love them. Not strangle them.

I laugh at the idea. I say: But I don’t do feelings until feelings do me in.

Sure, I’ll let my kittens in but not until after bedtime or tomorrow or maybe I’ll have time to cry this weekend or I can watch the sad movie and cry about those fictional characters instead. I’ll wait until I’m breaking under the strain. I’ll wait until I’m not sleep or eating or breathing.

I stick out my chin and exclaim: I’m less stoic than I used to be. I no longer think tears are a sign of weakness and yelling a sign of strength. 

Feelings are great for everyone else, I shout.

And anyway, I can finally say to a few people, Today, life is hard. I follow it up with 100 reasons why it isn’t hard. Or why it will be okay. Or why I deserve it.

Where is the line between self-pity and self-awareness? When is it okay to cry? To feel? To be less quiet? I don’t want to overstep my bounds. I don’t want the drama.

But after staring at a blinking cursor on and off for hours, I take other people’s advice anyway. I cry to myself. I cry to my husband. I cry around my kids.

I cry away my writer’s block.

I cry for 20 minutes and spend the rest of my day wondering if it is worth it.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

19 thoughts to “I Wear Not-Feeling Like A Badge”

  1. worth it?! jesus, i hope so! otherwise i’ve been wasting an awful lot of time.

    cleo’s birth was the end of me and stoicism. i’ve been an open wound ever since–and man, that sounds gross, but unfortunately it’s true. i just can’t stuff anything anymore, it’s all right there at the surface. i could use a little of what you’ve got.

    somewhere there’s a happy medium. but sometimes the only way to find it is to bounce back and forth between the opposite ends.

  2. Up and out so says my psychiatrist…you can’t fight the feelings so let them go…cry…punch pillows not faces…do what you need to do in that exact moment.
    You can’t ignore it or fool it.
    Let it be and you will get well.
    I’ve been there many times…it sucks harder than Paris Hilton (which was a very inappropriate comment…my apologies.)…but it passes
    Remember it is just a moment.
    Lots of hugs and love xoxo

  3. I know what you mean about not wanting the drama. I’m the same way. I prefer to observe & interpret what is going on around me, so I tend to shy away from my own feelings. That being said, I’m finding that as I get older if I allow myself to express myself in the moment I often [not always] feel better about things.

    Like you, I wonder where the line is between self-pity & self-awareness. How far does a recovering stoic go into the world of feelings before imploding into oneself? Turning into a self-pitying mess? That is something that I can’t quite figure out.

  4. I had a roommate in Med School who used to tell me that I didn’t cry enough and that it was releasing to cry. I never felt that release from crying – it always just makes me feel worse. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do it – because sometimes I am just overwhelmed enough that I have to – but I think there are some people who get something out of it and some who don’t. I get more out of taking a deep breath and forcing myself to do something that I am uncomfortable with.

  5. I wear my feelings like a billboard on my smile. I wear my feelings like a supersonic sound surround megawatt speaker in my eyes. Yeah. I’m transparent. I feel instantly without batteries or no water added…

  6. Well, Alex, this is beautiful. So it’s something.

    I turn away from the hard, the sad, the painful in my life too. But my feelings are less compliant, they refuse to stay over there and sneak through. And then I yell at the wrong person or cry about nothing and feel stupid on top of everything. But I’m so used to turning away, I don’t even know my feelings often.

    We all deal in our own ways. And that’s okay. I try to fight the drama, but sometimes life is just dramatic. And telling the story isn’t self pity or drama queen behavior. It’s telling your truths. Which is harder. (and why I can’t do it often)

  7. I am the opposite. My mom used to say that not only was my heart on my sleeve, but my soul was pinned to my shirt. She never had to worry about me lying to her because I am incapable. It is never a question as to what my mood is or how I feel about something.

    I don’t cry in front of people often, but when I need to burst into tears, they are coming. there is no stopping them.

    My husband is the complete opposite. He is exactly like you.

    When his dad died, everyone told me they worried about him not crying. It made me mad because who cares? He deals with his emotions in his way. There is no “right” way to feel things.

  8. Is it weird that I can’t decide whether I am exactly like this or the exact opposite?

    I do withhold my feelings often; I tend to rationalize and give others the benefit of the doubt. I stubbornly insist on putting myself in another person’s shoes trying to see why he/she might feel or behave a certain way.

    I am circumspect about which opinions to share and often err on the side of keeping judgment to myself.

    However. I can’t tell a story to my mother without tearing-up; I write with the extremes of my emotions; I am not afraid of people knowing “the real me” even while I’m not sure who she is.

    So.

    I suppose what I am is my own unique blend of crazy.
    And whatever yours is, I adore.

    Don’t change.

  9. Alex, I have always found your posts full of feeling, and that’s one of the things I love about your writing. They are real. Keep doing what you’re doing, however you’re comfortable doing it.

    1. Oh no, your comment made me teary up. Haha. Thanks. That post is one of my favorites, too, because no matter what I think or where I am, it’s an undeniably good mom moment. And laughter is the best.

  10. Searching for your own personal balance can be hard … I wish I could turn off my feelings sometimes … I wish the tears wouldn’t come so easily … but I personally like to cry in the shower … at least there nobody knows … but since you have that hatred for bathing thing I don’t know what to tell you 🙂
    I never thought of you as unfeeling though … in all the posts I’ve read … you seem to have enough feeling 🙂

  11. I read this probably moments after you posted it and have been thinking about it ever since. I just can’t find the right words to say exactly what it is I am thinking or feeling. All I can say is: I understand. Thank you for writing this because once again you have shined a light on my own humanity and coping skills just by writing about your own. I think we all benefit from moments of self-pity and sometimes those moments foster self-awareness. How can we have empathy for other people and not offer the same consideration to our own spirit? Why do we beat ourselves up for being stoic and then beat ourselves up for being emotional? Why can’t we just “be” what we are in the moment without any shoulds, need to’s or criticisms – especially when we offer those kindnesses to others? I have a feeling I am going to be thinking about this for a while.

    1. I still feel awkward about this post so hearing that you understand means so much to me. I definitely struggle with giving kind advice but not wanting to take it and I agree that all these moments even those of self-pity have their places as long as we don’t get stuck in them. I have been stuck in self-pity before and it ruined many relationships and experiences for me. Everything I feel I always think “this too shall pass” even if it’s a happy feeling — helps me to remember that up and down is okay.

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