“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” — Dr. Seuss
It’s easy to wallow in self-pity, doubt, and uncertainty after loss. Loss of a lover, loss through death, loss from destruction. Sometimes it’s hard to be thankful for all that you had when it seems to’ve locked you in to such a massive fortress of devastation afterwards. You might wonder…was it worth it? I can say that I gained and am better for it…but is that just a cheap consolation to make myself feel better? And one thing is for sure: You want to make sure that it never happens again.
I catch my thoughts leaning this way in relationships of all types–a habit I thought that I’d kicked after finally having a stable home in my teens, but something that has creeped back into my adult life with continued experiences of loss and perceived abandonment. I find myself reasoning my emotional life–or lack thereof–in my mind, saying “if you get too close, if you care too much, one day you’ll eventually have to say goodbye, and you know how hard the freight train hits.”
Maybe this is part of the reason why I am a professional actor–I can experience these wild depths of emotion in a contained environment, and keep it isolated from burrowing into my daily life. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely take the time to understand what I’m feeling and why I’m feeling it. I don’t avoid my feelings. What I do avoid is building up circumstances or places or people, large enough to tower over my ability to control what I allow to affect me. It’s a careful measurement of how much I allow myself to care.
It’s easy for me to lead others in the direction of Dr. Seuss’s words. In fact, in one of the most meaningful and devastating feats of my life I said something quite similar as a eulogized the life of my best friend. I can champion the hell out of a cause, and I’m incredibly motivated by people–to lift their spirits and to make them feel positive. My own life interest and outlook deviates from most, I think. I think a lot of people “just want to be happy.” That’s the end goal. Happiness is real, but it cannot be appreciated to its full extent without knowing the depth of other tumultuous emotions, like grief or humility or just a rainy day haze. So I try to value not exclusively what feels good, but also what makes me feel awkward or mean or ferocious. In this way, it’s possible to be thankful for everything, even those feelings of wanting to close up, because they are progress and they reveal the light of something more.