Tag Archives: Emotion

In transition

It’s interesting to watch the mind shift and change, ebb and flow. It’s interesting to experience from the inside, noting the sensations and thoughts at hand, while also experiencing from the outside. That is, watching the self have the experience.

This is what I was doing yesterday when trying to come to terms with what I will call “the dark streak”.

Ever since I can remember, I have always had a streak of dark thoughts. These are the not-so-pleasant ideas that I know are there and every now and then under times of self-doubt, uncertainty, or stress, make their presence known. The dark streak, which I have previously also called the “demons“, is common enough that I am not especially bothered by it anymore. Rather, I am curious.

After yesterday’s encounter with the dark streak that annoyed me because I really hadn’t planned on it being there, I sat down to deliberately make observations. This is what I noticed:

  • The dark streak is likely to rear its head when I experience a sense of isolation. It goes away with a tangible reminder that I am actually not as alone as I might have thought.
  • The dark streak is imaginative rather than destructive. It likes to ponder a range of possibilities and actually gives me a lot to think about when I follow it.
  • The physical sensations that I experience at these times are more closely linked to the part of my brain that is observing the experience. The dark streak might be running hot but my body and mind remain calm and cool if I am watching the dark streak rather than running with it.
  • While the dark streak can paint a vivid image that stays with me, there is a difference between experiencing the image from inside and watching myself experience the image from outside. The latter perspective is that of the observer that I mentioned above.

I don’t ask why this happens – I’ve had help figuring that out. Instead, I can simply ask whether this is normal. But with that question on the tip of my tongue, I can also think of the idiosyncrasies that people have pointed out over time and all I can do in response is shrug. Put all the weird things together and that’s what makes us individuals, right?

There’s a dark streak in me and that’s okay. It’s hardly surprising that we’d become acquainted again.

Society has been experiencing a dramatic transition in the last weeks and months, and this will continue for the weeks and months to come. There will be economic and political effects felt for years, and perhaps a reckoning of social structures that have gone unquestioned for far too long. With transitions come the opportunity to change, reinvent, renew, and restore. Transitions allow us to look around, to ask questions, and to take the time (after all, we are not so busy any more) to do the hard work of figuring out who we are and who we want to be.

I will not romanticise here and claim that I am grateful for this time. (Rest assured, I was crushed when Singapore announced on Friday that we’d be joining the ranks of the rest of the world with school closings and movement restrictions.) But, as I have said for a long time, we need to take much more time to think and much more time to understand ourselves and one another. We have this time. Use it wisely.

An Unidentified Emotion

I had an interesting experience and I’m not quite sure what to make of it. I think I could call this experience jealousy, but I honestly don’t know if that’s right.

I overheard someone I’d just met talking about something that she has, which happens to be something I deeply want. My immediate thought was, Oh. You, too? As in, yet another person who has this thing that I cannot seem to have.

But then this person started to talk about working so hard to get it, and all of the obstacles in the way, and how the struggle is finally over! And my exclamation point is absolutely genuine because that is such a joyful thing. If I want something for myself that I find valuable, I want it for everyone. Well done. Enjoy. Live peacefully.

So there’s that.

But I also stepped outside of myself enough to notice how I was reacting in the moment, which was not with any particular warmth. I wasn’t involved in the conversation when this topic first came up so it was easy to take a moment to look at myself. I didn’t have to a) look like I was listening or b) pay attention, and I quickly realised I didn’t want to do either of those things. Here’s another one, I thought, who has succeeded where I have failed.

Note that many of these words are a product of looking back on my internal response; I don’t know that I would have described my emotions this way in the moment but this is what I have been left with.

A predictable progression from here, as the conversation unfolded, is to ask what’s wrong with me. Why can’t I have this thing, too? I know enough psychology that I laughed at myself when it happened and I practice enough meditation to swiftly walk that feeling back and away. It isn’t about me at all.

When my new acquaintance promised to tell more in the future, I caught myself rolling my eyes internally. Physical distance and some time has me wanting to hear the story. Good for you, new acquaintance. Be content. Be happy.

And then the conversation shifted and all moved on.


I am now left with a question. Was that jealousy? I honestly don’t know. If so, it’s not the green-eyed monster I read about and was so frightened by as a child. I decided very early on that I never wanted to feel such a thing.

Merriam-Webster says that jealous has four definitions:

  1. hostile toward a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage
  2. a. intolerant of rivalry or unfaithfulness / b. disposed to suspect rivalry or unfaithfulness
  3. vigilant in guarding a possession

None of those seem right, either.

So if it’s not jealousy, what is it? What does it say about me? Where does it leave me? And what do I do about it?

I didn’t know so I wrote this blog post. I still don’t know. Language interests me and maybe there’s a word for this feeling in another language. Maybe I’ll look around for one. I think I’ll call it “the time I might have been jealous” and keep an eye out for it in the future. And maybe then I’ll know, or maybe we’ll never meet again.

And that thing? I hope you get it, too.

Learning to Cry

It’s usually when I’m listening to loud music that it finds me.

Usually when I’m sitting alone in the dark.

When I’m watching a candle burn.

It’s usually when I close my eyes and reach down into the place I pretend doesn’t exist.

Usually when I find dark reds, blues, blacks.

When I feel colors swirling.


And then I have two choices.

Choice 1: Fly. Fly out of there. Back up and into the light. Find a smile. There are flowers somewhere.

Choice 2: Fall. Fall and go wherever the fall brings. Tumble. Let the heart beat faster. Let the breathing end in a gasp.


I’m learning to cry again. It’s been a long time coming.

Growing up, I used to cry a lot. I cried when I was happy or sad or angry, always when I was angry. And because I was crying, and also because I used to laugh out of sheer emotion before I cried, I always ended up feeling embarrassed or silly. Another reason to cry.

I used to cry whenever I saw someone else crying. It didn’t matter if I knew them or not. It didn’t matter if I was watching a film or living a real life. If someone else cried, so would I.

I’m not sure when that changed. Maybe it changed when I cried every single day for a month after moving to Malaysia. Maybe I ran out of tears after that. Maybe it changed when I moved to Singapore and didn’t want to give anyone back home an excuse to say, “See? You’re unhappy. You made a terrible mistake.” I wasn’t unhappy and I hadn’t made a mistake.

Maybe I stopped crying after a lonely transition to New York City that wasn’t supposed to be that way. I started that era crying a lot and then somewhere in there, I stopped.


I remember when, as I cried yet again over the phone, the recipient of my call hung up and sent me a message saying, “I just can’t talk to you anymore.”

I never, not once, cried in front of the therapist who I paid to hear me talk and let me cry. It’s not that I didn’t want to, but that I’d run out of tears.

Or that the tears had been run out of me.

A friend told me later, “You were a lot to handle back then.”

I tried, I really tried, to be sensitive to others’ feelings and needs. I understood that I needed to be around people but that I couldn’t be around people. I couldn’t be what people needed me to be and I didn’t want to disappoint them again.

I sat in crowded cafés and bars instead. Books were quiet company. I watched. I eavesdropped. But mostly I drank my beverage and concentrated on the page in front of me.


Learning to laugh again took time but it wasn’t hard. Laughing feels good.

Learning to feel okay again meant treating myself with the compassion that I extend towards others. While harder, that felt good, too.

Learning to cry, well. Well.

I’ve been surprised, actually. It feels better than I thought. It’s a relief in many ways. And I don’t mean the tears on an airplane that I’m very familiar with. I mean the tears that come screaming from somewhere deep inside.

And the heart beats and the breath comes in a gasp. The body shakes. Hands reach out.

Please hold me.

Please hold me.


Perhaps I’ll go as far as saying that crying feels good. Or at the very least, it feels like something. It’s not the tears themselves but the release and relief that come with allowing them. I’ve put down something heavy that I didn’t realize I was holding.

There’s life to feel, life and connection and love. There’s care. I have bathed in it and come out clean and new.

There are oceans where this came from.