#20: Notes from midnight
Can we turn our feelings off—at least for now?
I have notes for you I’ve been keeping on my phone, emailing to myself at midnight. Sometimes I can’t sleep—the city air warming up so quickly, too soon. Street lamps filter through my blinds like the dawn as my fingers find the phone on my nightstand. I flip onto my stomach, open a new email, and write to you on my glowing screen.
The notes read:
You do not always have to be the most sensitive version of yourself. You are allowed, encouraged even, to put up walls around your house, to temporarily guard the softness inside you, that is you, to protect yourself from the world’s sharpness.
You can set your emotions aside now and then. Some people may not agree with my advice, but I’d argue sensitive living requires careful balance and knowing when to put your feelings to bed like tired babies.
You shouldn’t need permission, but sometimes it can feel better when we’re guided through the door. It’s okay to empty yourself out and simply be. We can’t always process everything.
I often wonder about the curse of having deep feelings and how, sometimes, it can feel as if we don’t have autonomy or ownership over our bodies. Is it so wrong to want a little control?
In my experience, sitting in my emotions for too long—embracing the wave of it—you can end up drowning. And being underwater only works if your limbs aren’t tired and you’re prepared to swim.
Sometimes the remedy is simple and unattractive, like sitting in front of the TV, crumbs falling on your chest, as you turn the volume up so you can no longer hear the voices inside. It doesn’t have to last forever; it shouldn’t last forever. But a break is okay. You can take a break.
You do not owe others your emotional energy either. Not every day, not every moment. You do not even owe it to yourself. All of us have limits. We can’t always feel everything, and we can’t always feel something. Of course, this is the brave work—to show up and listen to our emotions, and it’s work we are willing to do. But we are also people—tired people—and we are allowed to set down the bags we carry.
I don’t have a lot more for you this week. Does anyone else feel the lethargy that seems to be in the air? Maybe it’s the changing weather, the warmer days that promise unbearable heat on the horizon. Maybe it’s the news.
Or maybe I’m just overworked and burned out (still). This must be the curse of millennials, always seeking and grasping and never feeling like we can get in front of it. To step off the hamster wheel is the greatest challenge. But how do we get off the wheel when it’s how we pay our bills?
I did go to a book reading recently. That felt like coming up for air. Something about being surrounded by books, by people who love books, and hearing other writers talk about their writing processes. I’m too tired to write lately, yet writing is all I want to do. A frustrating dichotomy. It was helpful to be around others who understand this dilemma.
I drove home with music and AC blaring on my body while mulling over ideas and stories, brainstorming all the ways I could hack my life and wake up earlier or stay up late. Create pockets for writing, for reading. I make promises to myself in the rearview mirror. It’s so much easier in theory.
But the book reading was a good reminder to prioritize the things you love. Carve out space for them in your life, no matter how small the space they get, no matter how big the sacrifice to make them happen. You have to come up for air, and the best way to do that is by making room for whatever it is that jolts you awake.
These charcoal painting videos by artist Josh Hernandez
The absolute coolest, positive news story you’ll read all year
I’ve been listening to a lot of Haux first thing in the morning or when I need a minute of peace throughout the day. This song feels especially grounding: