I’ve got this weird complex about showing strong emotions. It’s like a warning signal has been lodged in the depths of my psyche and if I get a notch too bubbly or a click too melancholy it goes off, blaring impending danger to my inner world. Calm down, collect yourself, come back to that cool and easy-going person you think you need to be. Keep the anger at bay, the enthusiasm at a pleasant level, and whatever you do don’t let the people around you know just how extreme your feelings might be.
But sometimes I catch myself wishing I could, maybe, just every now and then, show just a bit more.
I don’t know where it came from, this need to be quiet, demure, and placid. From before I can remember though, I’ve been described as such. My mom still tells stories about how I would sit for hours in my bouncy chair, unperturbed by anything around me, and I’ve come to pride myself on my tranquil approach to life. Memories of getting overly upset at an inopportune moment haunt me, and those times I get hyper and let lose always leave me with a sense of shame. Even-keel is my ideal, and I will do all I can to stay that way.
So, here and there, when I get achingly sad over something, or even more vulnerable, really really excited, that alarm starts sounding and I try to zip everything up as quickly and quietly as possible.
It was described to me once as limiting ourselves to a four-pack of crayons, this self-driven need to contain our emotions. Red, yellow, green, and blue. How are you feeling today? Please pick a single one of these colors to describe it, no mixing please. No fuchsia, no violet, no lime green, no charcoal gray. Just stick with the ones listed, please. Let’s keep things mild and simple, please.
But I’ve seen those packs of 96 crayons on the shelf of the art supply aisle in Target. I’ve seen that there’s more. And I’m tired of only using four.
In five short days we set off on a month long backpacking trek across Colorado. Four-hundred and eighty-six miles is our itinerary. People keep asking how I’m feeling about it. I tell them that I’m tentatively excited, but also nervous. It might go really poorly, I tell them. My shoes might give me blisters and my pack might be too heavy, and I don’t know if I can poop in the woods that many days in a row. I might not even finish.
Because if I can keep my feelings reserved and conservative, they will provide a shelter over my fragile ego.
But the truth, right now, five days out? I can hardly wait. I am only excited. I keep looking at my pack and thinking how glad I’ll be to hoist it on my shoulders and get going. But I don’t want you to know that. I don’t want to set myself up for failure, to face disappointment if it doesn’t go as planned. I refuse to let you know just how excited I am in case I can’t do it. Let’s keep my eagerness at a calm minimum and if things go awry I can quietly come home without you knowing how defeated I feel. Blue, yellow, green, and red only.
And yet those 92 other colors tantalizingly offer something more. A bigger life, a richer experience, a vibrant and abundant way of living. And I think that’s what I want.
So yeah, I’m excited. I’m stoked. I cannot wait to start. And I want you to know that. I’ll probably cry somedays, I’m sure I’ll get sick of smelling like sweat and dirt and I’m sure I’ll have moments that it seems impossible to keep going. But hard or not, this life is a grand adventure full of crazy possibility and I want to immerse myself in all of it. I want all the colors it has to offer.