Tag Archives: Emotion

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.

Living as a Traveller

I feel like a different person when I travel.

I walk with my head up, camera in hand, not thinking twice about asking for advice or sitting alone in a restaurant to write or walking in circles because I can’t read a map. When travelling, I stop noticing myself and notice what happens instead. Even with transport delays, inclement weather, and various discomforts, there’s a sense of calm coolness and detachment, a sense that everything is temporary and will make for a good story later.

When I travel, I feel younger, newer, wide-eyed at the brightness and color of the world. I feel happy and free, light and airy, and I look for the small things that make people tick. The present is enough because I don’t know what the next thing will be.

Of course, I sometimes want to share my joy with someone else, the excitement over whatever it is or wherever we are. When travelling alone, I can usually catch the eye of a stranger and smile, or express my delight to a barista or bartender. It’s fun to see pride and appreciation in their eyes.

For about six years now, I’ve written three things I’m grateful for at the end of each day. When travelling, I’m constantly grateful for the opportunity and for the choices that I’ve made, even the hardest ones, that have given me such opportunity. I find myself comfortable with my decisions and with myself as an individual. I fall asleep at night feeling warm and fulfilled, waking in anticipation of the next adventure. Whatever is here now is good, even in the dark. Everything else can wait.


I noticed my traveller outlook acutely during my recent trip to Greece. I was with two girlfriends and took time each morning to meditate for about ten minutes. I found that it opened my mind at the start of the day to whatever would come and left me clear-eyed and able to simply observe.

In addition to awareness of what was around me, I noticed how I was feeling as the feelings arose. I noticed sensations, energy in the body, my general attitude, and the contentment of a state of equanimity. And I noticed it then rather than noticing the change that often takes place when reality sets back in. This time, I felt a sense of peace instead of its absence.


But it’s different, of course, going from the delight of friends and new experiences to lying in bed in a quiet apartment. That’s the point at which I normally feel inadequate, afraid. That’s the point at which I normally berate myself for making the very choices that I cherished just hours before.

But this time, jet-lagged and lying awake with the physical sensations that normally send me down a rabbit hole of self-doubt, I recalled the interpretation of the same sensations, the same energy, throughout the week. I remembered contentment and delight, warmth and gratitude. And I came to the same conclusion in the darkness that I usually need the day to illuminate – these choices are okay and I’m doing just fine.

I am the same person not traveling as when I’m a traveller. The difference is not in what I’m doing or where I am or who I’m with. The difference is openness, living without judgement, simply experiencing. The difference is knowing today to be enough.

Not all those who wander are lost. – J.R.R. Tolkien