With our eyes we see outward, take in the external world. But it is our internal eye, the secondary vision with which we view our minds that reveals the most, troubles us the most. The organization of those innermost thoughts is the method by which we navigate the travails of this life, for it is impossible to address them all at once. We build elaborate structures to contain the pain, to corral the anger, to coddle the joy. The walls between are our ramparts, our protection, our security. We promise ourselves that we can deal with everything in its own time, as if order can actually be imposed on chaos.
Lately, my carefully constructed compartmentalization was torn asunder and I tried to rebuild the walls, even as they continued to leak. I rebuke myself for the rickety structures, the obvious conclusion of their unavoidable collapse. I tried to pretend that it was healthy to push the feelings into their respective, respectful boxes. I know that flow is the key to all and yet I restricted the natural course of my thoughts, blocked their meandering and their torrents and their eddies.
Dams, concrete and of consciousness alike, provide control, but at tremendous cost. There is so much obvious power in the wild pulsing of a raging river, of thoughts that are not constrained by the inconveniences of politesse and rationality. And yet the consequences of flooding, of overexcitement are messy and muddy and hard to bear. The sheer energy necessary to remediate these aftereffects is a tremendous deterrent, is the impetus for the self-controls that we design and implement. Better to be protected from our emotions rather than face their diluvian tendencies, or so goes that line of thinking.
No good has ever come from pretending that things are not what they are. No amount of self-delusion, of self-circumlocution will forestall the inevitable. Choosing to put a thought into the back of one’s mind does not remove its validity, its ability to eventually sear straight to the fore. Indeed, by purposefully choosing to avoid thinking about a topic, we give it more weight, more strength, more destructive force. Once caged, the thought paces like a tiger, working itself into a froth. With enough time, enough enmity, the animal will destroy the walls and come pouncing into the open, where it will demand a reckoning.
Stripped of my mental scaffolding, I stood to face my fate, unarmored. Stresses and concerns poured from every corner, their demands conflating such that it became challenging to figure out where to allocate my emotional resources. Legal arguments and parenting scheduling and financial matters and heartbreak and friends’ problems and physical ailments each require their own type of psychological attention. Once consigned to their respective compartments, they were all loose at the same time and I was overwhelmed.
My instinct was to build bigger, better walls. Gripped by a terrible sadness, I first attempted to construct a massive compartment for its source. But bulwarks are folly; they can be climbed, they can be tunneled under. I’m still trying to hold the emotions at bay, because I am scared of them. But I know that I must be brave enough to let everything wash over me, to experience the dizzying grief, to let myself be hurt so that I can begin to heal.
As I depart for the old country, I summon the strength to once again live freely, without walls, without compartments, vulnerable and human.