I warn you in advance, this is one of those “spin” situations, like when you are interviewing for a job and they say, “What is your greatest weakness?” and you slyly say something like, “I tend to be a workaholic.”

Is your weakness actually your strength?

This has been a very bizarre weekend for me emotionally. Alone for the first time in weeks, I experienced huge fluctuations in emotion – from giddily dancing around my bedroom to Stevie Wonder in my underwear, to bawling my eyes out on my couch. When I feel truly happy these days it is such an unexpected emotion that I feel a euphoric rush (cue Stevie Wonder). When I actually allow myself to sit in the anger and sadness, it feels like a cracking open.

Holy mood swings.

I messaged a friend earlier and asked her if she thought it was possible that I am actually bipolar. She responded that I am the LEAST bipolar person she knows. (That sounds really funny in hindsight, as if she had previously conducted an assessment of the bipolarishness of everyone she knows). She may be right. I tend to be even keeled to the extreme. I once had a friend spend the better part of an evening trying to force me to “Get angry!” (I never did.)

When it comes to anger, I tend to be measured. I consider what my role was in the situation. I consider what might have led the other person to behave the way they did. I consider whether there is any point in engaging. (I usually decide there isn’t.)

When it comes to sadness, I tend to push it down. I tear up often (whether it be from joy or sadness), but it’s not often that I allow myself to let go and openly weep. Cathartic as I know it will be, the complete release of control in that way is entirely unappealing.

I am open, generous and eager when it comes to expressing love and affection, joy and laughter…but, sadness and anger? No, thank you. I will resist, avoid and shove down those emotions for as long as I possibly can…and I’m finally realizing that may be a problem.

I was not always this guarded. Life has thrown a lot at me in a relatively short period of time. I’ve learned to protect myself. The problem is, despite my controlled response to negative feelings, I still feel them deeply. My skin hasn’t actually gotten any thicker…and I’m growing less and less comfortable living in it.

I recently made an analogy to a friend about wanting to shed my skin like a snake – to peel away everything that was making me feel uncomfortable in my body – the anger, the sadness, the loneliness. He replied that perhaps it is time to do just that. Wise, indeed. Except, what I really wanted was just to get rid of it, this uncomfortable skin – to unzip it and step out, unscathed. I have come to realize, though, that the snake does not just shimmy out of her skin. She does not simply slip it off. She must rub herself against rough surfaces in order to release it. It is hard work. It is no doubt painful, but she instinctively knows there is no other way to be free of it.

I have decided to be grateful for feeling these extreme emotions; these rough surfaces. Without them, how can I ever expect to release this skin which no longer fits?

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